September 21, 2012 20:15 Age: 2 yrs

High Litigation Costs Mean Few Attorneys Accept Malpractice Lawsuits, Professor Bailey Finds

A new study by Emory Law Professor Joanna Shepherd Bailey finds that fewer than 3 percent of patients harmed by physicians are compensated for their injuries, largely because they are unable to find attorneys willing to take their cases.

The study, “Justice in Crisis: Victim Access to the American Medical Liability System” found that even when attorneys are almost certain a malpractice lawsuit is winnable, the prohibitive cost of medical litigation prevents them from representing clients.

Bailey was quoted on “CBS Atlanta News at 4” on Sept. 18, prior to her presentation at the Georgia Legislative Policy Forum Friday.

Bailey says the study is the “first national survey of attorneys that explores medical malpractice victims’ access to the civil justice system.”

“The economic reality of litigation forces many medical malpractice attorneys to reject legitimate cases,” Bailey found. “In fact, over 75 percent of the attorneys in my survey indicate that they reject more than 90 percent of the cases that they screen.”

The reason? Insufficient damages and high litigation costs, Bailey said.

More than half of the attorneys who responded to the study said that even with a claim they are almost certain to win on the merits, lawyers typically do not accept a case unless expected damages are at least $250,000.

When they considered themselves only slightly likely to win, “the vast majority of attorneys require minimum expected damages of $500,000 to accept the case,” Bailey writes.

“As a result, many legitimate victims of medical malpractice are left with no legal representation and no meaningful access to the civil justice system,” the study concludes.

Related links:

Read “Justice in Crisis: Victim Access to the American Medical Liability System”

Professor Bailey’s profile

2012 Georgia Legislative Policy Forum


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