The Frequency and Severity of Medical Malpractice Claims

by Patricia Munch Danzon

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The frequency and severity of medical malpractice claims increased dramatically in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In response to the malpractice crisis, many states enacted changes in tort law applicable to medical practitioners. This report presents some empirical evidence on the contribution of various factors to the diversity in the frequency and severity of claims across states and over time. Section II provides an overview of countrywide trends in claims for different lines of liability insurance and differences among states in malpractice litigation. Section III presents a theoretical model of the frequency and severity of medical malpractice claims. Section IV describes the data and methodological issues. Section V reports the empirical analysis of frequency of claims per capita, average severity per claim, and average claim cost per capita. Section VI analyzes the determinants of the post-1975 tort reforms. Section VII summarizes the findings and policy implications.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Report series. The report was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1948 to 1993 that represented the principal publication documenting and transmitting RAND's major research findings and final research.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.