Home > Property & Casualty > A report on medical malpractice litigation against U.S. physicians

A report on medical malpractice litigation against U.S. physicians

A recent report by the American Medical Association examined the outcomes of medical malpractice claims by physician specialty. The report is unique in that there has previously been little study of the proportion of claims that result in litigation or the outcomes of the litigation process.

The report examined all claims closed between 2002 and 2005 that involved some defense cost (cases without defense costs were excluded as they were often a “medical incident” reported by the physician which never resulted in an allegation of malpractice). A brief summary of the results are listed below.

  • 55.2% of claims resulted in litigation (across all claims)
    • Anesthesiologists – 46.7%
    • ObGyn’s – 62.6%
    • Internists and Medicine Based Sub-Specialties – 53.5%
  • 54.1% of cases were dismissed by the court (across all specialties)
    • Internists and Medicine Based Sub-Specialties – 61.5%
    • Pathologists – 36.5%
  • 3.3% of litigated claims among internists and medicine bases sub-specialties were resolved before a verdict
  • 4.5% of cases resulted in a trial verdict (across all specialties)
    • Anesthesiologists – 2%
    • Pathologists – 7.4%
    • Internists and Medicine Based Sub-Specialties – 2.7%
  • 79.6% of cases which resulted in a trial verdict found in favor of the physician
  • 19 months – mean time to close a malpractice claim
    • 11.6 months for non-litigated claims
    • 25.1 months for litigated claims
  • Among litigated claims, those dismissed in court required the least time to close (mean, 20.4 months)
  • Claims that were not dismissed but were resolved before a verdict took considerably longer to close (mean, 28.5 months)
  • Claims that were resolved at trial took the longest to resolve
    • 43.5 months for cases with verdicts in favor of the physician
    • 39 months for cases with verdicts in favor of the defendant

The study concludes that approximately 50% of all malpractice claims involved litigation, with half of those litigated claims being dismissed in court. Litigated claims took twice as long to resolve when compared to nonlitgated claims. While most claims were ultimately decided in the physician’s favor, that resolution came only after months or years. To view the complete report, click here.

For more information on risk management for healthcare orgranization, contact the WGA Healthcare team or visit http://www.wgains.com/Healthcare.


William Gallagher Associates is a leading provider of insurance brokerage, risk management and employee benefits services to firms with complex risks and dynamic needs, within industries that include technology, life sciences, financial risks, health care, renewable energy & clean technology, and environmental services. WGA has offices in Boston, MA; New York, NY; Hartford, CT; Princeton, NJ; Columbia, MD; and Atlanta, GA.

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