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Pilot Program Designed to Cut Medical Malpractice Costs in NYC

Kingston Personal Injury Attorney

According to the Wall Street Journal, $1.4 billion is spent annually in the state of New York on medical malpractice insurance premiums alone. Five New York City hospitals have agreed to a pilot program aimed at cutting medical malpractice costs.

The hospitals have agreed to divulge medical mistakes early and offer settlements quickly. The program also involves the use of special state health courts, in which judges assist the parties in negotiating agreements before cases go to trial. According to the Journal, the participating hospitals are Beth Israel Medical Center, Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Maimonides Medical Center and Montefiore Medical Center.

Targeted Areas of Practice

The pilot is one of several federally funded programs to encourage hospitals to acknowledge and reduce medical errors. Four of the hospitals will focus their safety and mediation efforts in obstetrics, one of the costliest services hospitals provide, which should help reduce birth injuries. The fifth hospital will focus on preventing surgical errors.

Judges as Mediators

Hospitals already offer settlements when errors occur but the program allows consenting parties to go to a judge to mediate disputes. Judge Douglas McKeon has undertaken a long-time mediation effort and, says the Journal, is credited with helping to cut malpractice costs incurred by Health and Hospitals Corp., which runs New York City’s public hospitals. Reportedly, mediation efforts have reduced payouts from $196 million in 2003 to $130 million currently.

Janice Kabel, HHC’s deputy counsel, says that using a judge to mediate allows the parties to discuss the case in a relaxed manner in order to bring about resolution. Nicholos I. Timko, president of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association, hesitated, saying that while the association favors initiatives that promote patient safety, it is concerned over the potential for the disclosure and early settlement program to allow negligent providers to escape responsibility for their actions, exploiting patients who do not have legal counsel.

Judge Judy Harris Kluger is overseeing the project and says that patients will be notified that they have the right to have an attorney present during the settlement discussions. Moreover, although encouraged to solve their disputes with hospitals through the new system, patients and families will still have the option of pursuing a jury trial.

Victims of medical malpractice should consult with a personal injury attorney before entering any agreement. An experienced lawyer can discuss the forums that may be available to patients and their options for seeking compensation for their injuries.