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Increase in Medical Malpractice Claims Amid COVID-19

May 11, 2022

The coronavirus forced countless changes to our society and the way we interact with each other.  Many of those changes hit healthcare providers the hardest. Unfortunately, the additional stress on doctors, nurses, and specialists over the last several years has significantly increased the rate at which medical professionals fail to meet the basic standard of care they are legally obligated to provide each patient.

Data from independent organizations tracking civil litigation across the United States show that the number of medical malpractice claims filed in America rose by 25 percent in 2021 compared to the figures from 2020. This increase in medical malpractice claims amid COVID-19 shows no signs of slowing down in 2022. If you suffered avoidable harm because of a healthcare provider’s misconduct, it is recommended that you speak with a malpractice lawyer about your legal options.

How the Pandemic Affected Hospital Operations

Unlike- other types of accidents, such as slip-and-falls or auto wrecks, injuries from medical malpractice can be challenging to detect. It can sometimes take weeks or even months for an impacted patient to notice that anything is wrong. This fundamental issue was exacerbated by the pandemic, which pushed many healthcare facilities to their breaking points and made it more difficult for malpractice victims to seek follow-up diagnoses and care.

To protect critical healthcare facilities from dealing with civil litigation on top of staffing shortages and burnout, the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act extended immunity at the federal level to all healthcare providers from liability for harm stemming directly from countermeasures meant to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Numerous state legislatures also passed similar legislation prohibiting any kind of malpractice litigation related to COVID-19.

However, some of these measures have already been repealed, with this trend likely to continue in more states in the coming months. Furthermore, although many courts paused or adjusted normal operations during the height of the pandemic, litigation based on malpractice that occurred during the pandemic is likely still possible in many situations.

Has COVID-19 Changed Malpractice Litigation?

In most respects, medical malpractice claims during and after COVID-19 will work the same as they did before the pandemic. Regardless of whether the misconduct stemmed from exhaustion, understaffing, or any other challenge caused or worsened by the coronavirus, a physician’s failure to meet the applicable standard of care—based on their expertise and circumstances—could still serve as grounds for litigation.

It is worth noting that defining the “standard of care” for a healthcare worker during a deadly pandemic may be a uniquely complicated process with little legal precedent. While there has been an overall increase in malpractice claims relative to the number of cases pursued early in the pandemic, most of those claims are in the early stages. It remains to be seen what standards civil courts will hold individual practitioners to, considering the harsh conditions many have been working under.

Regardless, if you suspect your condition stemmed from a medical professional’s misconduct, your top priority after seeking treatment should be to contact a knowledgeable medical malpractice lawyer to discuss legal options. Schedule your consultation by calling today.

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