States and Territories: The Location of a Claim is Crucial to Evaluation

One of the most important factors in the evaluation of any medical malpractice claim is the jurisdiction. In almost every way, each part of the country is different and those differences have a significant impact on malpractice claim values.

First, the laws governing the claim can make a huge difference in how much an injured patient can recover. Some states have laws limiting the amount of damages that can be recovered for pain and suffering. Some states even take damage caps further by limiting the recovery for economic money damages like lost earnings and medical bills.

Second, providers in different parts of the country have different insurers and insurance structure. Insurance companies are often the biggest decision makers in any injury case and medical malpractice lawsuits are no different. Back in the old days, some medical malpractice insurance policies had clauses written into them that would allow the doctor or healthcare provider the ability to consent to any settlements. While there may be some insurers who still write these type of policies, they are almost entirely a thing of the past - so the control over litigation now rests entirely with the insurance company. Each insurance company employs its own decision makers. Some are more risk averse than others. If an insurance company has a pro-litigation stance, you may see wild swings in values for malpractice victims.

Third, each part of the country has its own culture, which can manifest itself in how juries behave. In other words, jurors in one part of the country might be more likely to award less money to the same claimant for the same injuries. Politics, values, views on money – all of the things that make someone view themselves differently from someone in a different state can have an impact on how they would view a plaintiff as a juror. Most of us realize that these type of trends vary wildly from town to town, so it is not surprising that the various states might have significant differences in this regard.

The National Practitioner Data Bank has some limitations when it comes to this type of analysis because the specifics of the venue are not reported. You may be able to see that a claim related to a New York healthcare provider, but you cannot see whether the claim originated in Buffalo or whether it originated in New York City. Further, the Data Bank does not clearly define the state in which the payment arose. There are actually three location fields that can be recorded for every claim: the provider’s home state, the provider’s work state, and the provider’s licensed state.

Location data is some of the most helpful in this database. When evaluating any claim, take the location into account.