Results from a new study by researchers at Vanderbilt University suggest that apology laws which were intended to prevent medical malpractice claims from being brought against a doctor are having virtually no effect whatsoever on the prevalence of such cases.
In this issue, we’ll take a closer look at apology laws and their effect on the medical community.
What Are Apology Laws?
In 1986, the nation’s first apology law was enacted in Massachusetts. The goal of the law was to allow doctors to offer statements, expressions or other forms of communication to express sympathy without their words being used against them later in a lawsuit.
Other states soon followed and enacted their own apology laws. Today, there are 34 states which have a version of the law.
Why Aren’t Apology Laws Reducing Medical Malpractice Suits?
The apology laws were designed to reduce the number of medical malpractice suits by preventing potential victims from introducing the apology as evidence of a mistake by the doctor.
Because it was viewed by many in the medical community that medical malpractice suits were often made in anger, the apology laws were designed to offset that anger with an act of compassion.
However, the Vanderbilt researchers found that sometimes the apology actually tipped the patient off that something had gone wrong during the procedure – something the patient probably would have never known without the apology.
This result was more likely to occur in a non-surgical setting where mistakes are much more difficult to catch.
“By apologizing, the doctor tells the patient that (something went wrong) when the patient previously didn’t know about it,” said Benjamin McMichael, one of the authors of the Vanderbilt study.
Some Hospitals Already Have Programs in Place for Medical Malpractice Settlements
In reports about the study, McMichael confirmed that some hospitals have programs in place that will allow doctors to tell a patient about something that went wrong, apologize and offer an early settlement to go away without filing a medical malpractice suit.
If You’ve Experienced Medical Malpractice, Call The Fitzgerald Law Firm
Pay attention to the last sentence in the previous paragraph. If you’re hurt because of medical malpractice, the doctor or hospital may try very hard to convince or bully you into accepting a smaller settlement than you would get by partnering with a skilled lawyer.
Instead of making grab for the cash, call us here at The Fitzgerald Law Firm. We’ll fight aggressively to recover fair compensation for medical treatment, future treatment, lost wages and lost earning potential.
The first consultation is always free, so call us at 800-323-9900.