Medical malpractice claims in Wisconsin have dropped to a new record low, while the state-managed insurance fund for physicians swelled to over $1.2 billion, statistics released in Wisconsin revealed.

A mere 84 medical malpractice lawsuits were filed in Wisconsin last year, down from 140 the previous year. The state’s Medical Mediation Panels also saw a significant drop — only 118 complaints were filed last year, the lowest in the history of the panels. The previous year, 161 complaints were filed. In 1987, the first year that the panels began, 410 complaints were filed. Wisconsin state law requires that a complaint be filed with the medication panel before a suit can be brought in court.

What has accounted for this drop in cases? Restrictive laws in the state that limit who can file suit have accounted for some of the drop. State law says that only spouses or minor children can file medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuits for loss of companionship. Parents who lose a child can only file suit if the child was aged less than 18 years.

Senator Nikiya Harris Dodd (D-Milwaukee) has said she would likely sponsor a bill allowing parents of children who die before the aged 27 years as the result of medical malpractice to file a wrongful-death suit. Wisconsin also has a cap on damages, limiting compensation to a maximum of $750,000 for noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering.

Meanwhile, premiums paid by physicians to the state’s Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund are expected to drop again this year — the second year in a row that rates have been lowered. The fund has ballooned to over $1.2 billion. In the last 18 months, the fund has paid out about $19.3 million in claims.

Attorneys in the state are declining to take on medical malpractice cases due to the high expense of bringing such a suit, the caps on damages, and the tendency of juries to side with doctors. On the other hand, the decreases in medical malpractice insurance for physicians and less medical malpractice suits has led to Wisconsin being ranked the sixth best place to practice medicine in, according to a recent study in Forbes magazine.

The study looked at 12 metrics to determine best and worst places to practice medicine. Wisconsin ranked second for “work environment.”

References

  1. Spivak C. (2015, March 22.) Facing legal roadblocks, medical malpractice claims dwindle. Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel. Retrieved from http://www.jsonline.com/news/health/facing-legal-roadblocks-medical-malpractice-claims-dwindling-b99466413z1-297180891.html
  2. Associated Press. (2015, March 23.) State medical malpractice claims reach record low. Green Bay Press Gazette. Retrieved from http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/story/news/2015/03/23/wisconsin-medical-malpractice-claims-reach-record-low/25218647/
  3. Spivak C. (2015, April 8.) Wisconsin posts nation’s lowest medical malpractice insurance costs. Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel. Retrieved from http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/news/299070851.html

All electronic resources were last accessed on April 20, 2015.