New Jersey Medical Malpractice Lawyers: Apology Laws

Currently, at least 36 states have adopted so-called “apology laws.” These laws prohibit victims of medical malpractice from using a physician’s apology to them in a malpractice lawsuit. Although the number of states enacting these laws is growing every year, insurance companies and defense lawyers often discourage negligent doctors from making apologies.

There are two primary policy goals behind enacting apology laws. First, these laws aim to increase communication between doctors and patients by giving doctors the ability to apologize without the chilling effect of the threat of litigation. Secondly, these laws aim to reduce costs and risks to hospitals and medical professionals. Some studies note that physicians who are perceived as “nice” by their patients are sued far less. The idea is that if a physician apologizes, the patient will be less upset and therefore less likely to file a lawsuit.

Skyrocketing healthcare costs are a growing concern in the United States. Many people blame the increase in medical malpractice insurance premiums for this rise in costs.

Vanderbilt University Study

Recently, researchers from Vanderbilt University analyzed 3,517 malpractice claims in an effort to determine whether these laws actually limit medical malpractice liability risk. Researchers used data from a nationwide database complied by a leading malpractice insurance firm. This data includes information about 90 percent of all doctors practicing in a single specialty in the United States between 2004 and 2011. Most of these physicians were surgeons.

In short, the study found that apology laws do not accomplish their stated public policy goal—reducing costs to hospitals and medical professionals.

According to lead author of the study, Benjamin McMichael, PhD, apology laws have no effect on the probability a surgeon will face a lawsuit for malpractice. Interestingly, however, apology laws actually increase the probability that a non-surgeon will be subject to a lawsuit for medical malpractice. Surgical errors are easier to detect than cases involving misdiagnosis or failure to refer. Research shows that when a physician apologizes for a mistake, it tips a patient off to the fact that they may have been the victim of medical negligence — whereas they otherwise would not have been aware of a problem. Consequently, the laws are having an effect opposite their stated intention, by increasing the number of overall medical malpractice lawsuits.

New Jersey Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, LLP Seek Compensation for Victims of Medical Negligence

Doctors’ mistakes are an all too common phenomenon. If you suspect that you may have been the victim of medical malpractice, you deserve answers. Our highly-experienced team of lawyers will investigate your case and determine whether you have a claim. We can help you hold negligent medical professionals accountable for their mistakes, and win you compensation to cover medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. To speak with one of our experienced medical malpractice lawyers in New Jersey, call us today at 732-777-0100 or contact us online. With offices located in Edison, Toms River, and Red Bank, New Jersey, Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, LLP provides free consultations to victims of medical malpractice throughout New Jersey.