Forbes reported in 2016 that Americans file an estimated 17,000 medical malpractice lawsuits annually, with studies showing that 75 percent of doctors in low-risk specialties and 99 percent of doctors in high-risk specialties have faced malpractice claims. In March 2017, CBS News reported that one study showed paid medical malpractice claims decreased 56 percent between 1992 and 2014, but average payouts for successful claims increased roughly 23 percent, from $287,000 to $353,000.
The study cited by CBS relied on information obtained through a review of National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB). The NPDB is a database run by the United States Department of Health and Human Services that tracks medical malpractice payments and lists other damaging information about medical professionals.
Information on the NPDB is not available to the general public. Alabama residents who are hoping to know more about whether their own physicians may have faced medical malpractice actions can turn to the Alabama State Board of Medical Examiners (BME) and the Medical Licensure Commission of Alabama.
These agencies publish information about public license actions, and the information remains public for three months. After three months, the information can be found in the Public Action Reports in the BME Newsletters Archives and the Public Log File online database.
On the BME and the Medical Licensure Commission of Alabama website, you can see if any action has been taken against a physician’s license by looking up the licensee through an online license verification search. You can download the documents using the Public Log File database when there is a public file.
On September 7, the Alabama Media Group published a searchable database after it gathered disciplinary records from the state board of medical examiners. You can search by first name, last name, offense, and discipline.
The results include a brief summary of physicians’ infractions, but the Media Group reported that the most common infraction was failure to meet annual education requirements (doctors are required to take 25 hours of continuing education every year to remain licensed). Other infractions included drug abuse, sexual abuse, violations of ethical standards, and prescribing excessive amounts of painkillers.
In October 2016, the Media Group reported that federal data showed residents in Alabama received fewer payments per capita in medical malpractice cases against practitioners than residents of any other state between 2004 and 2014. According to the 2017 Medical Malpractice Payout Analysis by Diederich Healthcare, Alabama had a per capita rate of $5.37 in 2016, the eighth-lowest in the nation.
Diedrich also reported that the total medical malpractice payouts in Alabama that year were $26,092,950, which marked a 35.59 percent increase from medical malpractice payouts in 2015. The Media Group also reported that approximately 90 percent of patients in Alabama who alleged injury due to medical malpractice lost their cases.
Many medical malpractice actions end up being unsuccessful for various reasons. In most cases, an alleged victim simply lacks the evidence necessary to meet strict legal definitions as they relate to medical malpractice claims.
People can be quick to accuse doctors of medical malpractice, but it is important to understand that dissatisfaction with a medical outcome should never be the primary cause of a medical malpractice action. Remember that under Alabama Code § 6-5-548, a plaintiff has the burden of proving by substantial evidence that a health care provider failed to provide the standard of care, or care that a reasonable and competent healthcare provider in the same situation would have provided.
With a medical malpractice case, you will have to demonstrate that a medical professional did not meet the applicable standard of care and such a failure was the proximate cause of your injury, resulting in damages.
If you think that you or your loved one has been the victim of medical malpractice in Alabama, it is in your best interest to quickly retain legal counsel. An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to conduct an independent investigation of your incident and determine if there was any negligence for which you could be entitled to damages.
Farris, Riley & Pitt has been helping medical malpractice victims for more than two decades. Call (205) 324-1212 to schedule a free consultation that will allow our attorneys to review your case and help you understand all of your legal options.