Why Malpractice Claims Take Forever To Be Resolved

Two recent papers have prompted me to ask myself the question, “Why do malpractice suits take so long to be resolved?” One was by a group from Harvard, USC and the RAND Corporation. They looked at more than 10,000 closed malpractice cases for all specialties and found the average length of time it took to close a case was 19 months, with litigated claims taking a little over twice as long as non-litigated claims, 25.1 vs. 11.6 months respectively. Claims that were resolved at trial took much longer, averaging 39.0 months for defendant verdicts and 43.5 months for plaintiff verdicts. The second study was by a group headed by a surgeon based at a Johns Hopkins affiliated hospital. They reviewed 187 closed surgery claims at four university hospitals in New York. Using a different method of calculating the length of time, they noted a mean time until resolution of all claims of 4.5 years. Cases closed with no payment took 3.9 years, while those won or lost at trial took about 5 years. I’ll give you a minute to see if you can guess why it takes so long to resolve these claims. Here’s my theory. I think it might have something to do with the involvement of lawyers. We all know that plaintiffs’ attorneys get a large percentage of the take from any case settled with payment or plaintiff’s verdict with damages. But defending cases can be expensive too. Since defense lawyers are paid according to their billable hours, it seems to me that it is in their best interest to make a claim last as long as...