Harmed by the Hands That Heal: West Virginia’s Malpractice Epidemic

Medical malpractice has reached unprecedented levels in West Virginia and throughout the United States. In fact, the epidemic has proven so extensive, and losses to medical malpractice insurers so severe as a result of this, that legal action has been taken to artificially limit medical malpractice losses within the insurance industry. This has not only lowered premium costs for medical providers at the general expense – it has lowered provider accountability.

Legal measures to protect negligent providers in West Virginia have included restricting the amount of compensation that can be claimed per incident and requiring that a “certificate of merit” be obtained from a certified healthcare provider to file a liability claim against a fellow provider. While medical malpractice insurers operating in West Virginia watched their bottom line go from being in the red in 2003 to recording millions in annual profits every year since then, patients continue to suffer serious harm and lose their lives on an epic scale by the hands of those they entrusted to heal them.

How Bad Is It?

Systemic Failure
In 1999, the Institute of Medicine released their now famous report, “To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System,” bravely shedding light on the startling statistics surrounding medical negligence in the United States, with experts estimating that approximately 98,000 people lose their lives each year – in hospitals alone. While this report was careful to clearly assert that the problem was not “bad people” but “bad systems,” the healthcare industry initially lashed out against the claim. Closer, continual inspection revealed that the data was, in fact, accurate. The statistics are now widely accepted. Further studies have shed more light on the degree and depth of this issue. Every subsequent, reputable study analyzed since then has supported the fact that we are not only experiencing a medical malpractice epidemic of tremendous levels, it is most likely far, far worse than we could have imagined.

Medicare Inspector General Reveals Extent of Preventable Harm & Deaths

Medicare Hospital Deaths
A 2010 report released by the Office of Inspector General for Health and Human Services (HHS) revealed that negligent medical care in hospitals contributed to 44% of the preventable adverse and temporary harm events reported, as well as the deaths of approximately 180,000 patients in 2008. The estimated cost of this medical malpractice to taxpayers was placed at $324 million – or roughly 3.5% of Medicare’s annual budget. This study focused solely on those insured by the Medicare program. For reference, 14.3% of the US population was covered by Medicare in 2008.

Up to 8 Million Injured Annually Due to Deficiencies In Provider

Competence, Education & Performance

Individual Provider Failure
In 2014, the Journal of Patient Safety exposed the then-current state of the medical malpractice epidemic in their updated report, “A New, Evidence-based Estimate of Patient Harms Associated with Hospital Care.” Based on careful analysis of studies indicating the presence of specific evidence in patient records, the report placed a conservative estimate at 210,000 deaths per year in hospitals caused by preventable medical harm, with the truest likely estimate placed at 400,000+ per year. Aside from deaths, serious patient harm caused by medical providers in hospitals was estimated to be 10 to 20 times higher than this rate, which would implicate healthcare error in four to eight million cases annually. Importantly, these figures solely focused on inpatient harm and deaths. At this level, although systemic error likely does hold some blame in many of these cases, the author confirmed what logic has indicated for some time (and that we have been loath to admit) – a terrific level of deficiencies in individual provider competence, education, and performance are clearly present and responsible for causing patient harm.

10% of US Deaths Caused by Medical Providers

Medical Providers as a Major Cause of Death
In 2016, patient safety experts at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine analyzed medical death rate data from 2000-2008. They reaffirmed with clarity the presence of this epidemic and the extreme degree of harm being committed on citizens throughout the US when they released their bombshell report. This report determined that in excess of 250,000 deaths per year were directly attributable to medical provider error, making it the third leading cause of death in the United States and responsible for at least 10% of US deaths. Due to the manner in which the data was collected, the rate is much likely to be far higher than this.

West Virginia Medical Malpractice Rates Far Exceed National Level

WV’s Horrifying Malpractice Epidemic
In 2008, the West Virginia medical malpractice pure direct loss ratio (a reliable indicator of the status of the medical malpractice insurance line, corrected for error following analysis by the West Virginia Offices of the Insurance Commissioner) was 1.5%. By 2017, this figure shockingly skyrocketed to 90.5%, far outpacing nationwide loss ratios and confounding experts. While this type of significant, ongoing loss would likely cause any other business model to fail, or at least, spur those responsible to take action to correct the underlying issue (in this case, healthcare provider negligence), legal protections were instead put in place to protect medical professionals instead of encouraging a solution. This terrible epidemic of harm continues to rage unchecked.

Kanawha County Leads West Virginia In Malpractice Claims

Highest Malpractice Claims In 4 WV Counties
A West Virginia Insurance Commission study analyzing malpractice claims filed over a recent 10-year period (2008-2017) placed Kanawha County, WV squarely in the lead with 883 total claims. This exceptionally high rate of claims was followed by Raleigh County (403), Cabell County (184), and Monongalia County (155) to round out the top four counties experiencing the brunt of medical negligence and malpractice claims impact in West Virginia.

A 2% Risk of Death at the Hands of Your Doctor Is Simply Too High

Unacceptable Risk of Death by Doctor
While the medical industry tends to cling to the 98,000 figure for deaths directly attributable to medical negligence in the hospital setting, reasonable extrapolations based on reports from medical safety experts would seem to indicate reason for alarm. These reports seem to suggest that virtually every US adult is likely to experience at least one incident of medical malpractice resulting in serious harm at some point in their lives (with a shocking 2% projected chance of loss of life in a hospital due to provider negligence based on these statistics and 2019 population levels). It is impossible to arrive at a number everyone can agree on. Nevertheless, the indisputable fact is that we are experiencing a serious epidemic of medical neglect that is harming and killing far too many. Negligent doctors and medical providers MUST be held accountable.

Contact Angotti & Straface Attorneys at Law

West Virginia’s Most Aggressive Medical Malpractice Law Firm

Harmed by the Hands That Heal?
At Angotti & Straface Attorneys at Law, we are serious about holding medical providers at all levels accountable. If you or a loved one have been seriously harmed by the hands that heal or a loved one has experienced fatal results, let us know. We offer the most aggressive legal representation for our clients and their families throughout West Virginia.

Fearless Pursuit of Justice
Our trial lawyers and medical research and investigatory teams are uniquely well positioned to handle all types of medical malpractice cases regardless of complexity. We fearlessly lead the way in pursuing the maximum compensation allowed by law for our injured clients and loved ones affected by medical malpractice wrongful death.

Most Aggressive Legal Representation
If you believe you may be entitled to compensation, Angotti & Straface Attorneys at Law is the team to call for the most aggressive claim representation in West Virginia – but time is of the essence. Call now!

You have absolutely nothing to lose. Holding negligent medical providers accountable helps improve the quality of care we all receive. We do not charge attorney fees unless we recover on your behalf. If you are too injured to come to us, we are pleased to make home and hospital visits throughout West Virginia. Our phones are answered 24-hours a day for your convenience. We make the process as easy as possible for you, but you do have to make that call.

Contact Angotti & Straface Attorneys at Law right now for a complimentary initial legal consultation to review your case: (304) 292-4381.