Our Scariest Health Care Risks – Escalating Verdicts and Settlements in Pediatric Litigation

Scariest Risks

Scariest Risks

The scariest and most volatile health care professional liability cases to defend involve severely injured children. Some of the largest verdicts and settlements in the U.S. over the last few years have occurred in non-obstetric pediatric cases. In many instances they exceed $5 million.

Emotional Impact

The emotional impact on a jury assessing the case of a severely injured child in a medical malpractice trial is almost always a huge hurdle to overcome. This is just one primary factor resulting in multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements. It is always difficult to assess just compensation for severely injured patients and families in negligence cases and especially for injured children.

Longer-term Expensive Care

Another primary factor in the high costs of these cases is improved medical care for severely injured children thus resulting in more expensive care over more years. Life care plans for children are very costly. Large verdicts in pediatric cases can result even in states with caps on pain and suffering like Wisconsin and others. In states without non-economic damage caps like New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Florida, verdicts and settlements can exceed $10 million.

Economy Complicates Settlements

The economy is a factor as well in the increase in claim costs for cases involving children. With low interest rates, the use of annuities is less desirable. A structured settlement is not as cost-effective or as palatable to plaintiff’s attorneys in pediatric cases.

Aggressive Plaintiff’s Attorneys

Plaintiff’s attorneys can resort to aggressive tactics, using online and other advertising strategies to find cases involving severely injured children particularly for neonatal injuries and such conditions as: meningitis, kernicterus (jaundice), retinopathy of prematurity, and volvulus/malrotation of the bowel. Plaintiff’s attorneys have also become quite creative in finding ways that will drive up the cost of life care plans for injured children.

The national medical malpractice environment is very stable but pediatric cases are downright scary.

This post was part of the special feature about Our Scariest Risks, published October 29, 2012. The feature also included these other risks:

About Paul Greve

Paul is the Executive Vice President of Willis' Health Care practice in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, with extensive expertis…
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