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Are Personal Injury Lawsuits on the Rise in the United States?

Written by Berkowitz

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Experienced Personal Injury Lawsuit Attorneys Serving Victims across Connecticut

Personal injury claims might soon be on the rise.

If the workplace safety and enforcement is overseen by the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), decreases under the new administration, many industry experts report that a possible consequence will be more personal injury lawsuits, reports Business Insurance.

In addition to workplace injuries becoming personal injury lawsuits, there are other areas of personal injury law that might see an increase in the number of claims.

To fully understand the rise of liability claims, it is important to comprehend the facts, studies, and statistics currently out there regarding these types of lawsuits.

Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Down, but Payouts Increase

Insurance companies have reported a reduction in the number of medical malpractice lawsuits filed. However, the insurance companies are giving more compensation to injured patients that make such claims.

Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that malpractice claims have decreased in the United States over the past 20 years. This is good news for patients and physicians alike.

However, using the National Practitioner Data Bank, researchers also found that the rate of claims paid for physicians from 1992 to 2014 saw a decrease of 55.7 percent. Pediatricians had the largest decline in claims, which was 75.8 percent. Cardiologists, on the other hand, had the smallest decline of just 13.5 percent.

Naturally, specialties are at higher risk for more medical malpractice claims.

What Claims are the Most Common?

Per the article released in March 2017, the most common type of malpractice claim was a misdiagnosis, which accounts for 31.8 percent of all claims. Errors in surgery accounted for 26.9 percent, while mistakes regarding treatments were at 24.5 percent.

Payouts on Malpractice Claims Increase Despite Decrease in Numbers

The number of claims is obviously down, but that same research found that the amount of the payment has increased by 23.3 percent for these claims. Neurosurgery had the highest average payout for the years, and the percentage of $1 million or higher settlements increased in the same timeframe.

Reasons for the Increase in Claim Amounts

Theories are circulating about why claims would increase in payout amounts. Some of these include:

  • Statutory Limits – Some states use statutory limits on malpractice claims. These limits restrict how much a jury can award a plaintiff in a malpractice claim. Therefore, some attorneys may be avoiding such claims unless they are at the top of the cap.
  • Better, More Aggressive Attorneys – Another theory is that law has caught up. Attorneys have more access to evidence than ever before, so they can be more aggressive with helping their clients receive the compensation they deserve after a malpractice injury occurs.
  • Procedural Changes are Good and Bad – Some speculate that the decrease in the number of claims comes from hospitals and private practices issuing stricter care protocols. These rules include checklists that prevent common malpractice errors. However, when a checklist is in place, and the error still occurs, it might account for the increase in settlement value.
  • Typical Inflation – There is also inflation. As medical costs and costs of living rise nationwide, it is only natural to see malpractice payouts increase too.

“I’m Sorry” Laws Do Not Contribute to the Decline

One important factor to note is that a study from the research team at Vanderbilt University found that apology laws do not stop medical malpractice lawsuits. Previously, it was thought that malpractice lawsuits arose out of anger and confusion – due to a lack of communication.

However, the research shows that physicians protected by apology laws had a higher chance of a lawsuit and an increased average payment amount when an apology is rendered. For surgeons, the apology law did not affect the probability of a claim in any way.

For Malpractice: Decrease in Claims, Increase in Payouts

For malpractice cases, there is no increase in claims. As the research shows, this industry sees a decline. However, the value of these settlements has dramatically increased.

Construction Injuries on the Rise – and So Are the Claims

In 2015, there was a total of 4,836 fatalities in the United States. This was a small, but a noticeable increase from the 4,821 deaths in 2014. Despite efforts for safer work environments, the fatality rate increased.

Furthermore, this was the highest the number has ever been since the 5,214 fatalities of 2008.

Statistics of Workplace Fatalities

  • Roadway incidents were up by 9 percent.
  • Private construction accounted for 937 fatalities.
  • Fatal injuries in oil and gas were 38 percent lower than in 2014.
  • 17 percent of those deceased were contracted and performing work for a private company or government firm.
  • Heavy and tractor-trailer operators accounted for 745 of those fatalities.
  • Workplace suicides decreased by 18 percent, but workplace homicide increased by 2 percent.

New York Seeing the Highest Increase in Construction Injuries and Deaths

The rush to expand New York and the city’s skyline has led to a record number of catastrophic injuries and deaths for 2017. In 2015, there were only 433 accidents compared to the low 231 for 2014.

The streak of increased injuries and deaths is not slowing down either. Already there was an instance where a crane collapsed in Tribeca and killed a pedestrian while injuring three others. A day before that, a construction worker had fallen to his death.

In NYC, the Department of Buildings shows an increase in accident-related deaths by 11, and six of those deaths came from falls.

Changes Coming to OSHA in 2017 and Beyond

Speculations are on the rise about how changes with OSHA will impact the number of personal injury and workers’ compensation claims seen in the country.

Some things expected to change include:

  • Funding – OSHA’s already minimal budget might decrease further. The way they spend their funds is also up for discussion, and the enforcement budget might be dramatically reduced – limiting how much protocol enforcement, inspections, and so forth OSHA can do each year.
  • Move Toward Compliance Assistance – OSHA is there to enforce safety and health compliance, but rumors show that OSHA might be forced to go away from an enforcement-based system and work as a compliance assistant. Therefore, they would merely help organizations comply, but not enforce or penalize those that fail to comply.
  • Recordkeeping Stops – The blacklisting and illness and injury recordkeeping might stop at OSHA, making it harder to pinpoint what companies are frequently exposing employees to harmful conditions.

Personal Injury Claims in the United States are on the Decline

Despite rumors, civil cases in the United States for personal injury have dropped. In fact, the US Courts report that a sharp reduction was seen from 2009 to 2013 in the number of civil personal injury lawsuits.

A total of 58,335 liability cases were filed in 2009, while 2013 saw 49,526 liability cases. For personal injury in general, there were 72,897 total cases filed in 2009, while 2013 reports 63,316 – a 15 percent decline over the five-year span.

Fears of Claim Increases Come from Compensation Culture Beliefs

Unfortunately, the rumors and fears of an increase in claims come from the theory of compensation culture.

Compensation culture is a term used to describe a society volatile to personal injury claims. However, this is meant to highlight frivolous and fraudulent claims.

The reality, however, is that hundreds of people are injured in the United States each year. These injuries are often preventable and caused by individuals who are reckless or negligent. Therefore, victims should receive compensation.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 2010 cost almost $1 trillion in productivity and life losses for accidents. The number of deaths in motor vehicle accidents increased by 7.2 percent in 2015.

What was the cause of these accidents?

  • Drunk Drivers – Drunk drivers killed over 10,000 people in 2013. Drunk driving is against the law; therefore, anyone injured or families who have lost a loved one to a drunk driver deserve compensation. The economic losses from drunk drivers are estimated at $199 billion in direct and quality of life costs for 2010.
  • Speeding Drivers – Speeding is reckless. Speeding contributed to 29 percent of fatal crashes in 2013. Furthermore, these irresponsible behaviors cost $40.4 billion per year.
  • Drivers who are Fatigued – Drowsy driving is just as dangerous as drunken driving. In fact, 37 percent of drivers have fallen asleep at the wheel.
  • Distracted Driving – Distracted driving is outlawed in many states because it is dangerous, reckless, and unnecessary. It is responsible for killing thousands and injuring even more.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), estimate that the average cost of medical care and productivity losses from motor vehicle accidents is approximately $99 billion per year or about $500 for every licensed driver in the country.

Injured in a Motor Vehicle Accident? Speak with an Attorney

Do not fear claims of compensation culture or worry that your case is not eligible for compensation. If you were in an accident and severely injured due to someone’s reckless, malicious, or negligent behavior, you have the right to seek compensation.

A personal injury attorney can help you receive compensation for medical malpractice, premises liability, defective products, dangerous medications, car accidents, and even dog attacks. You should not have to shoulder the financial burden of an injury that you didn’t cause.

Instead, call on a legal professional.

Contact Berkowitz Hanna today to schedule your no-obligation consultation. Contact us online to get started.