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Hospital negligence cases on the rise as malpractice payouts decline

According to a Consumer Reports study, many U.S. hospitals have been providing their patients with subpar medical care by failing to make safety and sanitation priorities in their facilities. This can lead to avoidable errors in which unassuming patients suffer the consequences of medical negligence.

But interestingly, medical malpractice claims are on the decline. In 2011, hospitals in Pennsylvania reported over 228,000 incidents in which patients were endangered due to possible doctor or hospital error. Over 8,000 of these incidents resulted in serious injury or wrongful death. But only approximately 1,500 patients or their families sued for malpractice. In contrast, in 2002, at least 2,200 patients filed lawsuits.

Hospitals and doctors pay billions of dollars in malpractice liability insurance, but very little of that money is ever paid to victims of medical negligence. Investigators speculate that one of the reasons for the decline in patient compensation is hospital peer-review. In this process, claims of medical negligence are dealt with privately, outside of the courtroom.

Patients need to know that they have the right to sue for personal injury in a civil court of law when they suffer injuries due to medical malpractice. Doctors must provide their patients with appropriate care and treatment, and hospitals are expected to deliver the same high standard of care. When this standard is not met and a patient is harmed, victims have legal recourse.

Through a medical malpractice lawsuit, injured patients or their families can receive financial compensation for the damages they incurred. These may include past and future medical expenses, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, pain and suffering and loss of companionship.

Source: PennLive.com, "Safety, Transparency, Accountability Key To Cheaper Health Care," Aug. 17, 2012

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Greg Prosmushkin is the contributing author to this content.