Tort Claims and Damage Awards

The median personal injury jury award in all jury tort Cases is about 500.000 Eighty-five percent of all awards are below the arithmetic mean amount $465.000. Awards are much higher in medical malpractice and product liability 1 of more serious injuries in these contexts, but such cases comprise only about ten percent of all state tort filings, and the success rate in such the forty-nine percent average. Awards over $1 million against Individuals constituted only three percent of all awards, and eight per cent of all awards against businesses. Contrary to public perception, punitive damages are infrequently awarded.
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Medical malpractice awards have been news items in recent years with a number of reports of a crisis in the system. Attempts to cap awards in this area by statute or constitutional amendments are widespread. The actual incidence of medical malpractice is given little attention though recent reliable studies have reported high levels of medical errors. In 2000, the Institute of Medicine estimated that 98,000 preventable deaths occur each year in hospitals because of medical errors. A study of Medicare records by Health Grades, Inc. in July 2004 concluded that the actual figure was more than 2.5 times the Institute’s estimate. Health Grades projected that 263.864 preventable hospital deaths were occurring per year due to medical errors. Importantly, medical errors are determined by medical standards of practice not by legal standards. The cost of these errors to the Medicare system was reported to be in excess of $2.85 billion annually. The Health Grades 2004 report concluded that “despite the shocking and widely publicized statistics on preventable deaths due to medical errors in America’s hospitals, there is little evidence that patient safety has improved in the last five years.”