Girardi | Keese

Study: Poor Patients Less Likely to File Medmal Claims

A recently released study indicates that poorer patients are less likely to file medical malpractice claims than wealthier patients. The study, which was published in Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research, goes against the belief of some physicians that lower income patients are more likely to complain about the care that they receive.

Researchers are worried about the "unconscious bias" that some physicians have against low income patients and fear that doctors may be reluctant to treat these patients based on the misperception.

"Helping doctors to become more culturally competent, that is, able to treat or relate better to a patient from a different race, ethnicity, sex, socio-economic status or sexual orientation, may help overcome these misperceptions," one of the researchers said.

Medical malpractice is a common problem throughout California and the country. Other studies on the rate of hospital mistakes indicate that dangerous medical errors happen on a daily basis at most hospitals, but that these mistakes generally go unreported or underreported.

California Medical malpractice victims have additional challenges when bringing claims in court. Since the 1970s, California courts have placed a cap on pain and suffering awards in the amount of $250,000. This means that a patient can only collect up to this sum for pain and suffering regardless of what a jury deems appropriate.

Source: MSN Health, "Poor Patients Less Likely to Sue Doctors, Analysis Shows," Mary Elizabeth Dallas, Feb. 28, 2012

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