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James T. Crouse
James T. Crouse
Attorney • (919) 861-0500

Hospital Negligence—More Than We Thought


In a previous post, I commented on the fact that most acts of medical negligence were never reported, let alone litigated. I also decried the fact that legislators were limiting the rights of the people harmed by that negligence without addressing the source of the harm—mistakes by doctors, hospitals and drug companies.

That was known to me for some time, but was supported by North Carolina lawyer Cliff Britt’s research from the New England Journal of Medicine:

  1. A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that 4,000 patients die and 5,700 patients are permanently injured in NC hospitals EVERY YEAR because of preventable medical mistakes.

  2. The number of medical malpractice lawsuits filed in NC has decreased over the last few years – WITH NO “REFORMS.” In 2007-09, the annual average of malpractice filings was 465 – which was 22.5% lower than the annual average in the preceding nine years.

  3. The annual number of malpractice lawsuits (465) is less than 5% of the 9,700 patients killed or permanently injured every year because of medical malpractice. In other words, only 1 in 20 patients who are severely harmed by a preventable medical mistake files suit.

  4. While the number of malpractice lawsuits has been DROPPING, the number of doctors in NC has been INCREASING. Between 1998 and 2008, the total population in NC grew by 18%, while the physician population grew by 29%. Your statement that doctors are fleeing our state is simply not true.

  5. NC juries are reasonable in awarding damages. In the 54 malpractice cases in which the patient won at trial and obtained a verdict on damages from 1998-2009, the median jury award was only $320,000.

  6. Medical malpractice premiums for NC doctors have decreased, while the malpractice insurance companies have made record profits.

  7. The average liability premium for internists, general surgeons and OB/GYNs in 2010 was 15% lower in NC than in states with caps on damages. ($37,150 vs. $43,647)

Cliff added, cogently: There is a problem in NC, but it’s not a problem with the patients, nor is it a problem with their lawyers. The problem is 9,700 patients severely harmed each year because of preventable medical mistakes.

It’s even worse than that. Last night, on ABC News, a story aired that quoted the Health Affairs blog which said that hospital errors occur in ONE-THIRD of hospital admissions, more than TEN time what was previously thought. The ABC report and the Health Affairs sites both give heart-wrenching examples of how people were hurt by these errors—wrong limb operations, mix up in drug applications, etc., which cause serious injuries and death.

At Crouse Law, we are not interested in demonizing people who work at hospitals. Most hospital errors are made by people trying to do the right things—at least one would hope. But the hospital systems obviously need more checks and balances. These are wholly preventable errors.

We do, however, criticize legislatures which aim and shoot at the wrong target—people harmed by this malpractice. Did they ever think that if the medical mistakes were prevented it would mean no more harm to people? Shouldn’t that be their goal—protection of citizen’s welfare? If they were to deal with the real problem, and not perceived problems, litigation would take care of itself.

What’s better, ending the cause of the harm, or trying to limit recoveries for the harm? Ask yourself, would you prefer not to be injured, or would you rather receive payments from the hospital or its insurance company for your injuries?

Simple, isn’t it?

James T. Crouse


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  1. pennyfraser says:
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    Healthcare is not subject to normal market forces! Anything that you have to buy at any random moment in order not to die is not something to which a rational supply/demand calculus can apply. Check out “Penny Health Insurance” articles on how to reduce the cost of insurance.

  2. Jim O'Hare RPLU AIC IAS says:
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    I know that you are just reporting the ” facts ” Re numbers. Who is in charge of counting dead people due to med mal? And why aren’t they forwarding those cases to the plaintiff’s bar?

    Isn’t it just a wild guess? Yes there should be fewer mistakes. You cant legislate ” no more mistakes.”

    What you can do is hire more nurses, reduce the 72 hour shifts to decrease fatigue.
    Med mal claims guy since 1985