Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers: Apology Laws

Maryland Medical Malpractice Lawyers discuss Apology LawsWhen a physician makes a medical mistake that unintentionally harms a patient, apologizing for that mistake is often perceived as an admission of guilt if the physician is sued for medical malpractice. In an effort to reduce the number of malpractice lawsuits and resolve cases without legal intervention, over 32 states across the country, as well as the District of Columbia, have adopted apology laws. Under this law, the physician can freely and openly apologize to a patient with the provision that the apology cannot be used against him or her in the lawsuit. However, according to a recent study from Vanderbilt University, apology laws may not have the intended impact on medical malpractice liability risk.

Researchers looked at 3,517 medical malpractice claims, using data from a national malpractice insurer. This data represented claims information on 90% of all active physicians from 2004 to 2011. Seventy-five percent of the physicians surveyed were surgeons. Of the 3,517 claims studied, researchers found the following results:

  • A total of 2.6% of doctors are sued for malpractice each year
  • Of those sued, 65.4% go to court
    • A total of 51.4% of the above pay some amount to the claimant
    • The remaining 34.6% of the above settle the claim out of court
      • Of the above, 7.1% settle out of court and pay something to the claimant
      • Of the above, 27.5% of claims are dropped

Conclusion: Law Has Little Effect on Malpractice

A postdoctoral scholar at Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management referred to apology laws as intuitively appealing but empirically unfounded. Fellow researchers found that apology laws did not affect the total number of claims, nor did they reduce the number of claims that resulted in lawsuit. In fact, they found that the law had no statistically significant effect on the likelihood of a surgeon facing a medical malpractice lawsuit. For other types of physicians, however, apology laws actually increased the likelihood of being sued for medical malpractice.

Researchers found that when a physician apologizes, it brings it attention to an error that the patient may not have otherwise discovered. In the patient’s mind, an apology can act as a signal that something went wrong and that doctor was at fault. As a result, he or she may be more likely to file a malpractice lawsuit, as opposed to settling or dropping the case.

Maryland Medical Malpractice Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Victims of Medical Negligence

If you or a loved one has been the victim of a medical mistake, you may be eligible to pursue financial compensation, particularly if the mistake was the result of physician negligence. The experienced Maryland medical malpractice lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton have a proven history of successful medical malpractice settlements and we will seek the maximum financial compensation that you and your family deserve. Call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online to set up a free consultation with one of our dedicated Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers.

Our offices are located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie, and Towson, allowing us to represent medical malpractice victims in Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Southern Maryland, and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.