Which spinal cord injury medicolegal lawsuits are surgeons more likely to win? 5 key notes

Written by Laura Dyrda | June 01, 2015 | Print  |

A new study focused on spinal cord injury examines whether the reason for lawsuits impacts the final outcome. The study was published in Spine.

The study authors queried "VerdictSearch" for spinal cord injury cases between 2000 and 2010. They categorized cases into "error in diagnosis" — 48 cases — and "error in treatment" — 25 cases. The researchers found:


1. Surgeons sued for an error of treatment had a relative risk of 2.69 to receive a defense verdict when compared with surgeons sued for error in diagnosis.


2. The average value was highest in the thoracic spine. Broken down, the values were:


• Thoracic spine: $1.9 million
• Cervical spine: $1.8 million
• Lumbar spine: $750,000


3. The average monetary award for a plaintiff verdict was higher than in the settlement. The award was $2.9 million for the plaintiff verdict, compared with $1.45 million for the settlement.


4. There weren't any significant differences based on age, sex, occupation and level of injury.


5. The researchers concluded physicians are more likely to successfully defend a lawsuit for an error in treatment than an error in diagnosis.


"The key to increase the success of defending a lawsuit in regard to spinal cord injury is to avoid delayed and incorrect diagnosis," concluded the study authors.


More articles on spine surgery:
The economics of robotic spine surgery—Why it could have a place in the future
Southern Bone and Joint Specialists added Dr. Kerry Bernardo
Fallout from the physician shortage: How will it affect spine care?

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