“Does Sorry Work? The Impact of Apology Laws on Medical Malpractice” by Elaine M. LIU
Elaine M. LIU
University of Houston
Apologies made by physicians for adverse medical events have been identified as a mitigating factor in whether patients decide to litigate. However, doctors are socialized to avoid apologies because apologies admit guilt and invite lawsuits. An "Apology Law," which specifies that a physician's apology is inadmissible in court, is written to encourage patient-physician communication. Building on a simple model, we examine whether apology laws at the State-level have an impact on malpractice lawsuits and settlements. Using a difference-in-differences estimation, we find that State-level apology laws could expedite the settlement process and increase the number of settlements by 15% within 3 to 5 years of adopting the laws. Using individual level data, we also find that apology laws have the greatest reduction in average payment size and the settlement time on cases with more severe patient outcomes.