Article by Mark Derner, Esq.
The cogs of justice in our society move very slowly, even more so with the fallout from a global pandemic. The court system is playing catchup with an increasingly backlogged court docket. Cases filed before the covid-19 pandemic have been held up as court dockets halted and jury trials were postponed due to covid. The delay means more time between the events at issue and the plaintiff’s day in court. As a result, many health systems are shouldering higher medical malpractice burdens than they might otherwise expect.
The payouts for medical malpractice verdicts are increasing, but delays aren’t the only contributing factor. There is reason to believe that the safety of hospitals has been declining due to poor training of new staff and a rush to place clinicians in intensive care units without proper training. Hospital safety scores have been declining when compared to pre-pandemic and there have been noticeable increases in bloodstream infections and MRSA, which poses a threat to health systems and their insurers.
Typically, Health systems are able to plan ahead for any legal costs they may incur and build that into their insurance reserves, but a recent report from VMG Health said some insurers are seeing malpractice costs rise to levels they did not initially anticipate. This report from VMG health interviewed 21 not-for-profit health systems and more than half of them said they are struggling with higher-than-expected malpractice costs. This pattern is expected to continue as many delayed cases were filed before the pandemic, there’s reason to believe that more will result from the staff shortages and reassignments that took place during the covid-19 pandemic. The lack of trust in the safety of hospitals, declining safety scores, and pandemic delays are all factors that are impacting medical malpractice lawsuits and putting a strain on insurers. For medical malpractice attorneys, these trends create additional incentives for hospitals and insurers to settle to avoid the prospect of large judgments.
 Tara Bannow, Medical Malpractice Lawsuits, Delayed by the Pandemic, are Hitting Hospitals Harder than Expected, Stat News, (Dec. 5. 2022), https://www.statnews.com/2022/12/05/medical-malpractice-hospitals-covid-pandemic-insurance/
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 Quinn Murray and Ed McGrath, 2022 Not-For-Profit Health System Performance Trends, VMG Health, (Nov. 10, 2022), https://vmghealth.com/thought-leadership/blog/2022-not-for-profit-health-system-performance-trends/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Hospitalogy%20-%2011/15/22&utm_term=Hospitalogy