While medical malpractice insurance premiums are among the
highest, they comprise a very small percentage of medical costs,
according to a study by the Association of Trial Lawyers of
And the impression that malpractice lawsuits are legion is
just plain wrong, according to Lynn Mares, Oklahoma City attorney
with the firm Abel Musser Sokolosky Mares Haubrich Burch
"I think there might be a lot of things go wrong in the
medical field, but if you recovered, a jury's going to say,
`Well, you recovered. Everything worked out OK in the end,' "
Consequently, attorneys generally balk at filing medical
malpractice lawsuits unless the situation is extreme, such as
death, severe brain damage or paralytic cases _ "or the
malpractice has to be so outrageous that it's a damage in itself,
it's emotionally distressful," Mares said.
If negligence occurs and the patient recovers without
permanent injury, it is probably not feasible to file a
malpractice suit, she said. In Oklahoma, medical malpractice
cases usually go to trial and are rarely settled. A malpractice
lawsuit, the necessary use of expensive expert doctors and the
trial itself are extremely costly.
"It's very rare you can get an expert doctor to testify from
here in Oklahoma," Mares said. "They're all insured by one
company, Physicians Liability Insurance Co. Any medical doctor in
Oklahoma is insured by them, so if we wanted to get a fellow
doctor from Oklahoma City to testify about one of his colleagues
here in the city _ it's hard enough in the first place for a
doctor to want to testify against a colleague, but also I know
there's some influence from this insurance company.
"It discourages physicians from testifying against each
So, most expert witnesses must be engaged from out of state,
"Contrary to the popular myth that people are filing frivolous
lawsuits against doctors, attorneys are usually extremely careful
about such cases because the attorneys are the ones who advance
all the expenses," Mares said. "A case must be based on provable
negligence and must yield a verdict which will both compensate
the victim and cover attorney fees and litigation costs."
The trial lawyers association study, published in March, cited
U.S. Congressional Budget Office statistics that showed medical
malpractice insurance premiums amount to less than 1 percent of
national health care costs. In 1991, medical malpractice
insurance represented 64 cents out of every $100 of national
health care costs, the study said.
In 1991, losses paid by insurance companies for medical
negligence amounted to 31 cents out of every $100 of national
health care costs, the study said. …