New York tops states for per capita medical malpractice awards

Lawsuits arising from medical malpractice can occur anywhere in the United States, but the awards given to plaintiffs in these cases can vary widely. The per capita payouts in the 50 states and the District of Columbia for cases involving medical practitioners in 2013 show just how dramatic these variations can be. In fact, the state with the highest per capita payout had a 1,300 percent higher rate than the state with the lowest per capita payout.

As it happens, the state with the highest rate is New York. And our state’s rate was 50 percent higher than the state with the second-highest rate, which was Pennsylvania. In real dollars, that translates to $38.83 on a per capita basis. This methodology makes it easier to compare the states; New York itself has about 6 percent of the national population, compared with North Dakota, for example, with less than 0.25 percent of the population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

As it happens, the per capita payout amounts on these doctor malpractice cases was lowest in North Dakota, at $2.96. But size has little to do with the amounts. New Hampshire, another tiny state, had a rate of $16.99, while California, the largest state in the union, had a rate of $5.84.

Overall,  according to the report, 96 percent of the payouts came from cases that were settled, rather than as a result of a trial verdict. Whether a case is settled or goes to trial, it can be important for a plaintiff to have the right legal representation to assist them.

Source: Forbes, “The Puzzle of Medical Malpractice Payouts,” Michael Krauss, March 27, 2014

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