What are Some Relevant Statistics on Medical Malpractice Lawsuits in the United States?

What are Some Relevant Statistics on Medical Malpractice Lawsuits in the United States?

The United States recognizes acts of accidental or intentional negligence on the parts of healthcare providers as grounds for medical malpractice lawsuits. Injured parties may bring these cases against individual physicians, clinics and hospitals.

For example, the New England Journal of Medicine published an August 2011 report that summarized malpractice data from 1991 to 2005. The researchers discovered that 7.4 percent of physicians experience malpractice claims. Of the claims, 78 percent did not result in any payments being made to a claimant. The majority of cases involved neurosurgeons (19.1 percent) and cardiovascular surgeons (18.9 percent). The fewest claims were submitted against practitioners in pediatric medicine (3.1 percent) and psychiatrists (2.6 percent).

Other researchers have investigated problematic practices that led to malpractice claims in one given discipline. Cases in point are the November 2012 NCBI researchers who looked into the reasons why radiologists have medical malpractice suits being brought against them. Evaluating the data of 8,401 radiologists practicing in 47 states, the most common complaint dealt with an erroneous diagnosis (14.83 claims for every 1,000 person years). Breast cancer patients most commonly issued this complaint. Other claims were based on “inadequate communication” with either the patient or the referring health care provider. A failure to recommend additional tests was the least common complaint and only accounted for 0.41 claims for every 1,000 person years.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics published data related to medical malpractice insurance claims filed between 2000 and 2004 in the states of Florida, Maine, Illinois, Massachusetts, Nevada, Missouri and Texas. They found that in this time span, malpractice insurers closed some 43,000 cases. Predictably, the highest payouts went to claimants with permanent injuries. In Florida, Texas and Missouri, claims were commonly filed 15 to 18 months after a patient suffered an injury. Closing these claims took up to an additional 29 months. In Missouri, Maine and Nevada, one third of cases were closed without any payment being made to a claimant. 

These statistics clearly highlight that being a patient can be a dangerous undertaking. Achieving satisfactory results after filing a claim depends in large parts on the merits of the case, the extent of the injury suffered and the attorney taking on the medical malpractice case.

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