Wednesday, April 26, 2006

ATLA reports that, in a new book entitled "The Medical Malpractice Myth,"Tom Baker, Connecticut Mutual Professor of Law and director of the Insurance Center at the University of Connecticut, uses empirical evidence to dismantle the myths that permeate the national debate over medical malpractice and liability insurance costs. A couple of excerpts:

. . . except for auto accidents and the occasional “mass tort” situation like asbestos, Agent Orange, or breast implants, Americans actually do not bring tort claims all that often, especially compared to the number of accidents and injuries there are. We now have two decades of solid research documenting this fact. What is more, the rate of auto lawsuits—the most frequent kind of tort lawsuit—is going down. And, despite the media focus on mass torts, products liability, and medical malpractice, those kinds of cases are far less important in dollar terms than either auto accidents or workers’ compensation.


Where Americans do excel in litigation is in the area of business lawsuits. If you read the business section of the newspaper, you know that B2B—business-to-business—sales are hot. So is B2B litigation. Some of the business executives who complain about the litigation explosion must be thinking about their own behavior. In one indication, the proportion of lawyers who bring personal-injury lawsuits has remained steady since 1975, while the share of lawyers involved in business litigation has more than tripled.

Read the whole excerpt I posted to, but the conclusion this author reaches is that "Built on a foundation of urban legend mixed with the occasional true story, supported by selective references to academic studies, and repeated so often that even the mythmakers forget the exaggeration, half truth, and outright misinformation employed in the service of their greater good, the medical malpractice myth has filled doctors, patients, legislators, and voters with the kind of fear that short circuits critical thinking."

Here's a summary of Baker's findings. Interestingly, Baker cautions Big Insurance to be careful what it wishes for. If injured victims of negligence are denied access to the courts, then businesses, doctors, and individuals have no need for insurance. They could win the battle for "tort reform," and lose the war by putting themselves out of business.