Medical Malpractice Case Filings Still Below Pre-Tort Reform Levels

Medical malpractice case filings were up  last year but are still below the filings for the year when the first tort reform hit medical malpractice cases.

October 1, 2008 was the date that pre-suit notice and certificates of good faith became required.  In the year before the law change, 646 medical malpractice cases were filed in the entire state.  Some 140 of those cases were filed in the month before the law changed – ordinarily only about 46 were filed per month.

Predictably, filings were down substantially in the year ending September 30, 2009 – only 264 cases were filed.  The next year filings were up  to 314, and the year ended September 30, 2011 there were 378 medical malpractice cases filed.

In an effort to compare apples to apples, adjusted filings for the year ended September 30, 2008 were about 546 and filings last year were 378.   That is a decrease of 136 cases, or about 25%.

During the same time period, the population of Tennessee has increased by about 400,000 people to 6.4 million and thus one would expect some increase in the number of claims.

Filings will continue to fall because of damage caps and other restrictions placed on patients injured by malpractice. Those restrictions went into effect for injuries and deaths occurring October 1, 2011 and thereafter.

A few numbers will put these figures in perspective.  Tennessee has 130 or so  hospitals and provides about 3,750,000 patient days of care per year.   There are 320 nursing homes with and 37,000 beds with an occupancy rate of 85%.   Tennessee has over 16,000 licensed physicians and over 60,000 registered nurses.  Some 250,000 people are employed in health care in the state.

And there were only 378 medical malpractice cases filed.  True, some of those cases have multiple providers as defendants.  (Some of those defendants are sued only for purposes of vicarious liability.)  But assume that two health care providers are alleged to have been negligent in every case.  So about 800 providers – doctors, hospitals, nurses, dentists, nursing homes, pharmacies, surgery centers, etc. are sued a year.

This is a crisis?



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