In the ongoing debates over tort reform across the country, facts seem to get lost in the mix of the vast number of opinions and viewpoints regarding this issue. Proponents of tort reform argue that attorneys engage in “frivolous lawsuits” and only want a monetary settlement of some kind from the people they sue. Attorneys say that they serve as invaluable advocates of the rights of the injured against doctors, hospitals, medical staff and other negligent parties.
What is a “Closed Claim?”
In 2003, the Ohio Legislature attempted to shine a light into this debate by requiring the Ohio Department of Insurance to publish annual reports on the number of “closed claims” reported by insurance companies. A closed claim is a medical malpractice claim that has been settled, tried to a verdict in a trial, passed the statute of limitations, or otherwise no longer active.
The long-term trend in closed claims indicates that there are fewer and fewer closed claims each year. In 2005, there were just over 5051 (the first year statistics were available) and in 2008, there were just over 3000. But the recently-release 2009 figures show an 8.5 percent increase over the previous year, to 3,344.
Why the Increase?
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what caused this recent increase in closed claims. One possible explanation is that many claims involve ongoing, complex litigation which may take many years to resolve. So, the recent increase in closed claims may reflect a desire by attorneys for either insurance companies or injury victims to reduce their long-term litigation costs by settling their cases.
The Importance of an Experienced Medical Malpractice Attorney
Litigating a medical malpractice claim is complex and costly. Individuals who have experienced a serious or catastrophic injury should choose a lawyer who carries experience in this area of law.