Tennessee medical malpractice judgments down in 2006

Hank Hayes • Nov 1, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Overall dollar amounts in Tennessee medical malpractice judgments and settlements were down in 2006 from 2005, according to a state Department of Commerce and Insurance report released Thursday.

The department’s report said Tennessee trial courts issued six medical malpractice judgments totaling $4.9 million during 2006. Total damages paid by judgments topped $6 million in 2005.

Total damages paid by settlement topped $141 million in 2005, compared to $100.2 million in 2006.

The report noted 85 percent of the state’s malpractice claims last year resulted in no payment of damages.

In recent years, health care advocates and a number of state lawmakers have insisted Tennessee has a medical liability crisis and that patient access to care in certain specialty areas is at risk.

Legislative attempts at reform, however, have failed.

But it’s still a front-burner issue for physicians, lawyers and lawmakers. Last year, 36 states considered medical malpractice legislation in some form, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Based upon financial data reported to the department, insurance companies wrote more than $345 million in medical malpractice premiums in Tennessee in 2006.

Expenses paid in 2006 for defending medical malpractice claims totaled $67 million compared to $61.7 million in 2005.

Insurance companies reported that financial reserves established in 2006 for Tennessee medical malpractice claims totaled $794.8 million. Approximately 5,430 open medical malpractice claims were identified as of Dec. 31, 2006. During the year, 2,973 medical malpractice claims were closed.

Total damages asserted in all malpractice lawsuits in 2006 totaled $7.1 billion.

The report is required by state law adopted in 2004 as a result of a study committee conducted by the General Assembly. This was the first report where the state’s trial lawyers were required to submit information to the department.

A copy of the report is available at the department’s Web site at www.tennessee.gov/commerce.

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