Any Maryland patients who feel they have suffered from a doctor’s error should be cautioned that pursuing a medical malpractice case will not be fast, easy or have a guarantee of success.
According to a new study, most medical malpractice cases are thrown out of court, and it could take months for that to happen, as well. The study looked at more than 10,000 malpractice claims that were solved over a four-year period in the 2000s and saw that only 55 percent of the claims turned into lawsuits. Of those, a court dismissed more than half.
In even more dismal numbers for the plaintiff, fewer than 5 percent of the cases that wound up in court had a verdict, according to the study. Of those, the doctor or other provider prevailed in about four of every five verdicts.
The time the process takes also is large, according to the study. On the average, it took nearly two years for a judge to dismiss a malpractice suit. Those that were resolved before a verdict in a trial took 28 months to close. The numbers were startling for those cases that actually went to trial: It takes 39 months on average for a verdict to be reached in a case won by a health-care provider and 44 months for a case to end in a patient’s favor.
The study also divided the success of malpractice cases by doctor’s specialty. Internists and physicians known as subspecialists had their cases dismissed the most frequently, more than 61 percent of the time. Cases brought against pathologists had their cases thrown out only 36.5 percent of the time. Lawsuits targeting pathologists normally result from the specialist failing to make a proper diagnosis of a disease.
Despite the gloomy statistics, patients who feel a doctor has done them harm still should consider filing a malpractice claim before the statute of limitations runs out to preserve their right to explore a lawsuit. It’s also important to have as much evidence as possible.