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More Medical Malpractice Studies

By Byron Warnken, on October 1, 2014

The public perception, mostly fueled by the American Medical Industrial Complex, is that medical malpractice suits are unjustified and out of control. As statistics and facts become more available all the time, perhaps this is changing to some degree. The truth is the exact opposite. It’s difficult for victims of medical negligence to get just compensation. We reported on this here a year ago. However, in our continued quest to uncover and reveal the truth about medical malpractice (including the best medical malpractice lawyers in Maryland), we came across the studies below and wanted to share.

A 2012 Harvard study of 10,000 closed malpractice claims reported that only 4.5% of claims go all the way to a trial verdict, and of those 4.5%, 79.6% were ruled in favor of the physician. Though the percentage varies by specialty, on average, 44.8% of the claims did not progress to litigation, settling the claim without filing suit.

According to Medscape’s 2013 Malpractice Report documenting the experiences of 1,400 physicians:

  • 35% of lawsuits were failure to diagnose (17% failure to treat)
    • 80,000 to 160,000 Americans suffered from misdiagnosis
      • 76% of diagnostic error claims resulted in death or permanent disability
        • 40,000 to 80,000 deaths
      • Common alleged misdiagnoses were cancer, heart attack, meningitis, ectopic pregnancy, appendicitis, and broken bones
    • Diagnosis-related payments amounted to $38.8 billion between 1986 and 2001
      • Average per-claim payout was more than $380,000 in 2011 dollars
    • 61% took up to 2 years to conclude
    • 74% of physicians were surprised to be sued
    • 62% of physicians thought the lawsuit result was fair

There is great variation in the frequency of malpractice suits and the amount of payouts across medical specialties.

  • Specialists:
    • 15% of lawsuits were filed against internal medicine
      • Misdiagnosis
      • Improper medication
    • 13% of lawsuits were filed against family medicine
      • Misdiagnosis
      • Negligent maternity care
      • Improper medication
    • 9% of lawsuits were filed against ob/gyn
      • Birth related injuries
      • Negligent maternity care
    • 8% of lawsuits were filed against psychiatrists
      • Suicide/lack of emergency accessibility/duty to warn
      • Improper medication




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