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Many claims regarding doctor errors never go to trial

When patients here in Oregon and across the country suffer injuries at the hands of the medical personnel to whom they entrusted their health and lives, a medical malpractice suit could be filed. Many of those cases never go to trial, however. Settlements are common in cases where doctor errors are alleged in order to avoid the expense, time and emotional turmoil that a trial can create.

Researchers released information recently indicating that just 1 percent of the doctors involved in medical malpractice claims account for nearly 32 percent of all settlements. Hospitals and malpractice insurers have access to a database that tracks these settlements. They are often reviewed prior to allowing a doctor privileges at hospitals.

However, hospitals are not obligated to deny privileges based on this information. Therefore, it is possible that the doctor you are trusting to take care of you could have had numerous medical malpractice claims filed against him or her. To the extent that it provides comfort to prospective patients, the research indicates that the majority of the claims are for substandard care, not negligence. Regardless, injuries and deaths still occur even if the doctor's actions are not considered to be negligent.

If an Oregon resident suffers injuries -- or loses a loved one -- to doctor errors, he or she has the right to file a medical malpractice claim against the party or parties believed to be responsible. Even though many cases settle, there is no obligation to do so unless it is believed to be in the plaintiff's best interest. The victim -- or surviving family members -- has the right to take the case to trial and present evidence to the court establishing negligence, which could result in an award of damages that could defray the financial losses that malpractice causes.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Many Doctors Who Face Malpractice Suits Are Serial Offenders", Anna Almendrala, Jan. 29, 2016

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