Study shows malpractice awards have gone way up

The median medical malpractice jury award jumped 46% in one year, according to the latest research from Jury Verdict Research in Horsham, PA.

The national jury-award median for medical malpractice claims rose from $515,738 in 1997 to $755,530 in 1998, according to the research company. However, the plaintiff recovery rate — the ratio of plaintiff verdicts to defense verdicts — fell 1% in 1998 for medical malpractice cases.

"It’s difficult to tell how juries are treating medical malpractice cases," says Dave Boxold, the study’s editor. "On one hand, you have medical malpractice plaintiffs winning almost 60% more money over the last two years. But on the other, you have those same plaintiffs winning just 36% of the time their cases go to trial — 1% less than last year."

Since 1965, Jury Verdict Research has analyzed five- to 10-year jury-verdict trends for selected injuries and liabilities. The latest report, which statistically summarized personal injury verdicts from 1992 through 1998, also includes state-specific statistical charts on compensatory, punitive, and million-dollar awards; median awards for premises liability, business negligence, and vehicular cases; and verdict values for commonly claimed injuries.

Also, the annual study revealed that plaintiffs suing for medical negligence in childbirth cases claimed the highest median award of all medical malpractice verdicts analyzed, $2 million. Median awards for other types of malpractice cases included $636,844 for medication cases, $625,000 for misdiagnosis, $400,000 for nonsurgical treatment cases, $300,000 for surgical negligence cases, and $230,000 for doctor-patient relations cases.

Copies of "Current Award Trends in Personal Injury — 1999 Edition" are available from Jury Verdict Research for $39.95 plus $4.50 shipping and handling. For more details, call (800) 341-7874, ext. 307, or e-mail