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The Michigan Model

November 21, 2022

In a typical medical malpractice lawsuit, a patient claims that they have been injured because of the actions or inactions of a medical professional. The patient who alleges negligent medical malpractice must prove four elements:

(1) a duty of care was owed by the medical professional;
(2) the medical professional violated the applicable standard of care;
(3) the patient suffered a compensable injury; and
(4) the injury was caused, in fact, and proximately caused by the substandard conduct of the medical professional.

The burden of proving these elements is on the plaintiff in a malpractice lawsuit. In the lawsuit, the patient will engage a medical expert to testify that the physician violated the applicable standard of care. If the jury believes that the medical professional caused the patient’s injuries, it will award the patient damages. However, the U-M Health System has introduced an innovative approach to medical errors and their potential legal consequences, including malpractice suits, known as the “Michigan Model.”

The Michigan Model

In the usual medical malpractice lawsuit, the victim asks for compensation, and most healthcare professionals would prefer that their insurance companies pay legitimate claims and not spend the time money, and energy defending a lawsuit. However, the University of Michigan says that physicians and patients are in many instances casualties of the insurance providers’ refusal to pay legitimate claims for medical errors. Forcing litigation is unique to medical malpractice, and few of these cases are settled without the patient first filing a lawsuit.

Insurance companies typically will settle other types of personal injury cases when the claims are legitimate. As a result, since 2002, the University of Michigan Health System has had a policy of “honesty and apology.” Research shows that this revolutionary policy change reduced claims from 262 in 2001 to 83 in 2007. This drop in claims has allowed the system to drop its malpractice insurance cash reserves from 73 million to 13 million.

Saying “Sorry”

The University of Michigan says that communication, full disclosure, and learning from their experiences are all “vital,” and that they have a policy of “saying sorry” or apologizing and having an open discussion when treatment or clinical care doesn’t go as planned. The U of M goes on to explain that “while apologies are certainly part of our approach, there’s much more to it than that.”

The university says that, in addition, it has seen the following:

• A steady reduction in the number of malpractice claims pending against the hospital and its doctors;
• A drastic reduction in its medical malpractice expenses;
• A significant decrease in the amount the U has paid to plaintiffs as a result of judgments or settlements; and
• A major drop in the time it takes to handle a claim.

The University of Michigan explains that it is endeavoring to “do the right thing” for its patients, its medical staff, and the public interest. The U of M believes that “court should be the last resort, not the first, when a medical mishap, complication or near-miss occurs.”

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Taking responsibility is the right thing to do it, and it can be cost effective.

If you or a loved one have questions about the Michigan Model, talk to the legal professionals at Buchannan Firm. You can contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney at Buchanan Firm in Michigan for a free consultation.

Our firm proudly serves people all across Michigan, including major cities like Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Detroit, Lansing, Holland, St. Joe, and Ann Arbor, and rural towns such as Lowell, Ada, Fremont, Newaygo, Grand Haven, Rockford, and Cedar Springs. We will meet you after hours, at home or in the hospital to accommodate you.
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