The New York City Comptroller’s Office reported that personal injury claims against the city have dropped to a 10-year low. This includes cases in the most expensive claims category, medical malpractice. From the Executive Summary of the report comes this:
In Fiscal Year 2005, the cost of claims totaled $529.8 million. In Fiscal Year 2006, the cost of claims totaled $496.4 million. This represents a decline of 10 percent and 16 percent respectively from the historic high of $589 million in Fiscal Year 2001.
The most remarkable part of the report was not all the facts and figures in the report, but that the city just created a new division regarding risk management (Can you believe the City didn’t already do this?):
The Risk Management Division focuses on City-wide loss prevention efforts and provides litigation support for the Comptroller’s Early Intervention Units. Most importantly, by reviewing the notices of claim filed with the Office, the Division seeks to identify patterns in claims at an earlier stage in order to implement risk prevention strategies.
After complaining for years about the high cost of the tort system, could the city actually be doing something about it by cleaning up their act (instead of blaming the victims)?
Regarding medical malpractice, the biggest of the cases, the report states about these new risk management units:
The units, handling carefully selected claims, strive to negotiate reasonable and fair settlements prior to extensive discovery and before expensive legal and expert witness fees have accumulated. The units also develop risk management and loss prevention programs from the information gathered through these cases.
Thus, the city’s management of the biggest of the cases is now changing, with a view toward earlier (and cheaper) resolution and preventive efforts for the future. It’s hard to believe this wasn’t done 20 years ago, but better late than never, especially for those that find themselves stuck in some of the city-owned hospitals.
A few of the bullet-pointed facts from the press release:
- In FY 2006, the costliest personal injury claims category was medical malpractice, which cost the City $155.2 million for 293 cases. In FY 2005, the cost was $145.9 million for 327 cases.
- 699 medical malpractice claims were filed in FY 2006, the lowest number in the last ten years. In FY 2005, 824 medical malpractice claims were filed. (See the chart on page 16 of the report)
- The three hospitals for which the City paid the highest total amount for medical malpractice claims in FY 2006 were Kings County ($33.6 million), Elmhurst ($25.7 million), and Woodhull ($15.1 million).
- Three hospitals (Elmhurst, Kings County and Queens) had increases in the number of medical malpractice claims filed from FY 2005 to FY 2006.
- 1,351 personal injury motor vehicle accident claims were filed in FY 2006. This represents a decrease from the 1,396 claims filed in FY 2005.
- In FY 2006, claim filings against the Health and Hospitals Corporation, the Department of Transportation, Department of Buildings, Department of Corrections, and the Department of Environmental Protection were the lowest for each of those agencies in the last ten fiscal years.
(Eric Turkewitz is a personal injury attorney in New York)