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Are Frivolous Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Common?

Medical Malpractice Lawyer

The famous “hot coffee” lawsuit of the mid-1990’s became a rallying cry for individuals concerned that the American legal system was being overrun by frivolous lawsuits. “How,” these critics wondered, “could a customer possibly justify suing McDonald’s for selling her hot coffee, when hot coffee was exactly what she had ordered?”

Yet, when people read past the headline of the story, they learned that this particular lawsuit was not frivolous at all. The woman who had ordered the hot coffee had suffered third-degree burns and was not only hospitalized for more than a week as a result of her injury, she required skin grafting and two years of follow-up medical treatment. In addition, all the plaintiff had asked of McDonald’s in the wake of the spill was for the company to pay her medical bills, which the company refused to cover. It was only after her injuries were virtually dismissed by the establishment, the company had not taken steps to rectify the situation and her medical bills began to mount in the tens of thousands of dollars did the injury victim file suit.

The Harvard Frivolous Medical Malpractice Study

A study published by the Harvard School of Public Health indicates that approximately 97 percent of medical malpractice suits filed in the U.S. feature plaintiffs who have suffered medical injury and “very few” claims are ever paid to plaintiffs who have not been directly harmed by physicians who have committed errors in patient care. This study stands in sharp contrast to the broad critics of medical malpractice lawsuits who insist that the system remains overrun by frivolous claims. These critics have been so effective in their condemnations of the system that many states now impose caps on the amount that medical malpractice victims may be awarded when they file successful suits.

Like the hot coffee lawsuit, there are times when medical negligence claims seem frivolous at first glance. But once one “reads past the headlines” it becomes clear that the overwhelming majority of seemingly frivolous medical malpractice claims are filed legitimately and are deserving of respectful attention.  

Legal Options May Be Available

If you have been injured or made ill as a result of medical negligence, legal options are likely available to you. Medical malpractice is not always easy to prove, nor is a contentious courtroom “battle” the right option for every case. Sometimes patients prefer to settle their claims with either the provider or facility that harmed them. Other times, patients are more interested in ensuring that their harm has been properly reported to medical authorities and governmental bodies in order to inspire greater oversight.

Every patient’s situation is unique. That is why it is important to seek legal counsel in order to better understand which legal options may be available to you. Speaking with a medical malpractice attorney on a confidential basis does not obligate you to take any specific course of action. Instead, taking this step allows you to make informed decisions about the legal choices that may best benefit your family and your unique situation.