Malpractice lawsuits on the rise

Posted at 11:02 AM, Dec 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-11 11:02:13-05

LEE COUNTY, Fla. — Along with COVID-19 numbers, lawsuits are on the rise. A new study shows more people are blaming doctors and nurses for how they were treated in the hospital during the pandemic.

Researchers say the jump in lawsuits could be because of several reasons. Hospitals reaching capacity, patient isolation and staffing.

Back in March, at the onset of the vast coronavirus outbreak in the U.S, less than one percent of malpractice lawsuits filed were because of COVID-19. By this fall, that jumped to nearly five percent.

That’s according to data released by Justpoint, a firm that connects patients with malpractice attorneys. They initially noticed lawsuits decline around May when people were avoiding regular checkups, but then they picked up again over the summer. CEO Victor Bornstein says one factor leading to possible malpractice could be limited space in hospitals.

“Those loved ones cannot come with the patients to the hospitals, depending on the hospital system,” he said. “That definitely increases the likelihood of mistakes. Some people might not remember the allergies that have on medications or which drugs they’re taking by name.”

He added short-staffing could also play a role.

Today, COVID-19 related claims make up as many as 6 percent of malpractice lawsuits in states like Ohio, to as little as .88 percent in California. Florida falls right in the middle at three percent.

Bornstein says attorneys in the Sunshine State are hesitant to take on these cases, since Florida hospitals aren’t required to have malpractice insurance.

“It becomes very difficult to bring a case against a doctor who chose not to have insurance, because attorneys don’t know if they’re going to get paid, and the claimants don’t know if they’re going to get paid,” he said.

Bornstein says generally the chances of malpractice cases making it to court is one in nine. Many settle outside of court, or drop the suit altogether because it gets too expensive.