Outcomes of Medical Malpractice Litigation Against US Physicians

Published In: Archives of Internal Medicine, v. 172, no. 11, June 2012, Research Letter, p. 892-894

Posted on RAND.org on June 01, 2012

by Anupam B. Jena, Amitabh Chandra, Darius N. Lakdawalla, Seth A. Seabury

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The risk of medical malpractice varies substantially according to physician specialty. Despite evidence regarding the frequency with which US physicians in different specialties face malpractice claims, there has been little study of the proportion of claims that result in litigation or the outcomes of the litigation process, in particular according to physician specialty. Malpractice claims that undergo litigation are an important source of concern to physicians, yet national data are lacking on the frequency of litigation, how litigation is typically resolved, and how long litigation takes to be resolved. Lengthier time to resolution affects physicians through lost practice time and added stress, work, and reputational damage. Patients are affected by anxiety as a result of a lengthy resolution process as well delays in the receipt of benefits. Using malpractice data from a nationwide professional liability insurer, we calculated the proportion of malpractice claims resulting in litigation, analyzed how litigated claims were resolved according to specialty, and calculated the time required to resolve claims of varying types.

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