People who file lawsuits against doctors accusing them of medical mistakes rarely do so frivolously, and those who file trivial claims generally receive no payout, researchers have found.
"Portraits of a malpractice system that is stricken with frivolous litigation are overblown," said David Studdert, who led a team of researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health in examining 1,452 randomly selected U.S. lawsuits.
The study, published in the May 11 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, also found that one in six of those who are injured by medical errors receive no compensation at all.
Studdert's finding supports other studies that have shown that the great majority of people injured by medical negligence never sue, and seems to disagree with assertions that the court system is rife with frivolous lawsuits.
Patients who do win their trials received an average of $799,365 in damages, nearly twice as much as the $462,099 average out-of-court settlement, the study found.