6 key trends in spine surgery malpractice litigation — average settlement is $1.9M

Written by Laura Dyrda | October 02, 2017 | Print  |

A new study published in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine examines malpractice litigation after spine surgery.

Study authors gathered data for spine surgery medicolegal cases filed between February 1988 and May 2015, finding 234 legal cases that met their criteria for inclusion. Study authors found:


1. More than half — 54.2 percent — of the cases ended in a defendant ruling and 26.1 percent of the cases resulted in a plaintiff ruling. The remaining 19.6 percent of cases resulted in a settlement.


2. Awards granted in plaintiff rulings ranged from $134,000 to $38 million with the average being $4 million.


3. Settlement awards ranged from $125,000 to $9 million with the average being $1.9 million. Settlements on average resulted in a lower payment than plaintiff rulings.


4. Cases with delayed diagnosis and those involving a therapeutic delay were more likely to result in the plaintiff verdict or settlement than a defense verdict, and these cases were more likely to be settled out of court.


5. Around 28 percent of the cases involved a catastrophic complication and physicians were more likely to lose in both plaintiff verdict and settlement cases involving catastrophic complications. Cases with plaintiff ruling that involved catastrophic complications resulted in significantly higher average awards than noncatastrophic cases — $6.1 million, compared to $2.9 million.


6. It took an average of 5.1 years to reach a verdict, with plaintiff verdicts taking around five years and settlements taking 3.4 years.


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Dr. Alexander Vaccaro: 2 big concerns and the best opportunity for spine surgeons in the future
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