The number of new medical malpractice cases reported in Kansas hit a 23-year low this year, but the total spent on settlements hit a record high, according to data provided Wednesday to the Health Care Stabilization Fund Oversight Committee.
Chip Wheelen, executive director of the stabilization fund that provides liability insurance to Kansas health care providers, told the committee the increase in settlement dollars doled out is due in part to the increasing costs for future medical care of injured plaintiffs, as well as the decrease in cases going to trial.
“That explains perhaps why there were so many settlements,” Wheelen said. “Folks don’t want to go to a jury trial. Neither plaintiffs nor the health care providers want to go through the agony of a jury trial, which is also very expensive by the way.”
New medical malpractice cases reported to the Health Care Stabilization Fund in Kansas dropped to 229 in fiscal 2013, the lowest since 1990.
The fund paid out 79 claims during the fiscal year that ended in July, for a total of about $29.4 million. That was the highest amount since the Legislature created the fund in 1977.
During that same fiscal year, 18 cases involving 22 Kansas health care providers went to a jury trial, which was the lowest number of trials since at least 2000.
Four of those cases resulted in a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, while the other 14 were “complete defense verdicts.”
“When we go to trial, we normally prevail,” Wheelen said.