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The Truth About The Medical Malpractice Crisis Part II

March 2, 2015

The Truth About the Number of Lawsuits Filed in New Jersey and Jury Awards

There has been a decrease in the number of lawsuits filed in New Jersey.

First, it is important to note that the number of lawsuits filed in New Jersey is decreasing. The New Jersey Administrative Office of the Courts has reported a decrease in the number of civil lawsuits filed over the past few years. This includes the number of personal injury and medical malpractice lawsuits filed in New Jersey. For example, the number of medical malpractice lawsuits filed in New Jersey declined by 25% from 1994 to 2001. Since 2001, personal injury and malpractice lawsuits have continued to decrease by 50%. This decrease in the number of personal injury and medical malpractice lawsuits is a trend that is occurring throughout the country.

Very few lawsuits go to trial

Of the lawsuits that are filed in the state, a vast majority of them settle. In reality, very few cases actually go to trial. Only 4% to 5% of personal injury cases actually go to trial in the United States. 95% to 96% of the lawsuits filed are settled at some point before trial. In 2002, only 200 medical malpractice cases went before a jury in New Jersey. Further, of the cases that do go to trial, plaintiffs win very few of them. In 94% of the cases that do go to trial, the defendant prevails.
Of the lawsuits that do go to trial, jury awards are typically a lot lower than you may think.

While multi-million dollar verdicts make headlines across the state, in reality these large jury awards are very unusual. A study from the Department of Justice showed that juries only awarded punitive awards in around 5% of cases with the average punitive award being only $50,000. Moreover, the average medical malpractice award in 2002 was around $115,000. These figures are quite different from the multi-million verdicts that make headlines. This is because very few personal injury and medical malpractice lawsuits actually go to trial and moreover, these types of cases are very hard to win.

Part III of “The Truth About the Medical Malpractice Crisis” blog series will shed new light on one of the most widely discussed multi-million dollar verdicts, the McDonald’s coffee case.

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