Death Claims are the Most Commonly Settled Hospital Claims in U.S.

Recently, a new study out of Johns Hopkins University made waves when it concluded that medical errors are now the third leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for more than 250,000 deaths every year. Others have been quick to verify the status of medical mistakes as causing so many lives in recent days, including Chicago-based commercial insurer CNA.

CNA states that of all the claims brought against hospitals, those involving death predominate over all others. Based upon the number of claims closed in a 2015 study, death claims accounted for the highest portion at 34.3 percent of all claims.

Interestingly, death claims did not have the highest average payout among all claims for medical malpractice. Rather, claims for neurological or brain injuries had the highest average payout at $551,000. They accounted for approximately 11 percent of all injuries and closed claims. Medical wrongful death claims paid an average of $321,000 while the overall average hospital injury claim paid approximately $251,000.

While these statistics were gathered on a national basis, they reflect numerous issues that happen here in Chicago. Many people around the state realize their health and safety may be at risk when it comes to cancer or heart disease but very few realize the all too real threat posed by a medical setting.

Countless incidents of miscommunication occur in hospitals, especially when a patient is newly admitted and/or receiving treatment in an emergency room. Often, bits of vital information do not make it from one staff member to others, preventing that information from being known to all and limiting a doctor’s ability to treat the patient effectively. This failure of communication is believed to be one of the greatest threats leading to medical wrongful death lawsuits.

Another common area for mistakes to happen involves medication mistakes. In some instances, the right medication is prescribed but given in the wrong dose. In other cases, similarly named drugs are confused by physicians and the wrong one is prescribed. And in instances that continue to gain greater media coverage, mix ups or errors on the part of pharmacists and others filing prescriptions are leading situations where a proper drug is prescribed in the proper dosage but a patient unknowingly ingests some other medication. All of these situations can turn deadly if the wrong combination of mix ups and confusions takes place.

The best thing you can do is to do your own research before selecting medical care. Review the history of any physicians you are considering using as well as the medical hospitals or facilities where they practice to learn about any safety concerns that may be present. If you are involved in an accident or an unexpected illness arises, you may not have time to do any research but you can still select the facility where you receive treatment if the injuries are minor or non-life threatening. However, if you are unable to control the location where you are taken for help, know that you can transfer facilities if needed when you have attained a stable condition so that in the end, you can elect to receive the care you desire.

If you live in Illinois, be prepared to be your own best advocate or the best advocate possible for those you love in your life. Doing so may help reduce the risks of your involvement in a medical malpractice incident.

Prior Blog Entry:

OSHA Mandates Improvements to Injury Reporting, Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, published May 13, 2016.


Insurer’s Hospital Claims Study Corroborates High Death Risk from Medical Errors, Insurance Journal, published May 10, 2016.

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