Sued? You're Not Alone

An American Medical Association survey [ PDF ] shows that an average of 95 medical liability claims are filed for every 100 physicians in the United States. That's almost one per physician and demonstrates the need for the rest of the country to adopt liability reform like Texas did.

Among the findings:

  • Nearly 61 percent of physicians aged 55 and older have been sued.
  • There is wide variation in the impact of liability claims between specialties. 
  • The number of claims per 100 physicians was more than five times greater for general surgeons and obstetrician-gynecologists than for pediatricians and psychiatrists.
  • Before they reach age 40, more than half of all obstetrician-gynecologists have already been sued. 
  • Ninety percent of general surgeons aged 55 and older have been sued. 

"Even though the vast majority of claims are dropped or decided in favor of physicians, the understandable fear of meritless lawsuits can influence what specialty of medicine physicians practice, where they practice, and when they retire," said AMA Immediate Past-President Jim Rohack, MD, of Temple. "This litigious climate hurts patients' access to physician care at a time when the nation is working to reduce unnecessary health care costs."

The number of medical liability claims is not an indication of the frequency of medical error, as the physician prevails 90 percent of the time in cases that go to trial, the AMA said. While 65 percent of claims are dropped or dismissed, they are not cost-free. Average defense costs per claim range from a low of more than $22,000 among claims that are dropped or dismissed to a high of more than $100,000 for cases that go to trial. This leads to increased costs for physicians and patients. 

The report includes data from AMA's 2007-08 Physician Practice Information survey of patient care physicians and other sources.

 

Action , Aug. 16, 2010


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