The Ultimate Medical Malpractice Insurance Guide

Must-Know Medical Malpractice Statistics for 2023

Mar 26, 2024

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Malpractice is a serious issue that affects all healthcare professionals and their patients. Medical malpractice statistics show that the majority of claims are made against physicians. However, non-physicians are sued as well. According to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), of the total number of medical malpractice payments made from 2012 to 2022, 26% were from non-physicians.

Understanding medical malpractice statistics, like the number of claims, insurance costs, and death rates, can give you insight into potential risks. This helps you find areas to improve, keeps your patients safer, and protects you from liability or legal responsibility.

In this part of the Medical Malpractice Guide, we share the must-know statistics of medical malpractice to help break down the ways you can reduce your risk of being sued and empower you to navigate your career with confidence.

Data on Medical Malpractice Claims

Before we get started, it’s important to note that most of the publicly available documentation of medical malpractice claims consists of records related to paid settlements. This means the data doesn’t include false or unproven claims that may have been filed against healthcare practitioners.

Instead, it specifically represents cases where the practitioner reached a settlement with the patient or their family outside of court or cases in which the practitioner was found liable in court.

The NPDB defines these payments as follows: “Each entity that makes a payment for the benefit of a health care practitioner in settlement of, or in satisfaction in whole or in part of, a written claim or judgment for medical malpractice against that practitioner must report the payment information to the NPDB.” This data focuses only on claims against an individual practitioner and does not include payments made on behalf of entities such as hospitals, clinics, or group practices.

What Are the Most Common Malpractice Issues?

Medical malpractice is a type of medical negligence, causing injury to a patient through a careless act or omission. It can happen during routine health management, diagnosis, treatment, or aftercare. And malpractice stretches beyond doctors.

Nurses, nurse practitioners, and allied health professionals can also be sued for care that allegedly results in harm or injury to a patient. They can also be named as additional parties in suits against attending physicians or facilities.

The Medscape Malpractice Report 2021 found that misdiagnoses and surgical complications are the top-ranking reasons that patients sue physicians for malpractice. For nurses, failure to communicate, failure to monitor, and documentation errors are common reasons for malpractice allegations, according to Nurse Journal.

How Often Does Medical Malpractice Occur?

Overall, medical malpractice claims statistics show the number of lawsuits being filed is declining. The number of malpractice payment reports since 2012 has gone down nearly 15%, from 12,679 in 2012 to 10,807 in 2022. However, it's difficult to determine how often malpractice occurs as not every patient who is affected by practitioner error files a claim.

Here is more medical malpractice data to wrap your head around:

  • One in five American adults has experienced a medical error, which encompasses a variety of mistakes that can result in no harm, prolonged treatment, emotional distress, disability, or death.
  • 4% suffered a medical error between 2016 and 2017, while 6% say they had one between 2012 and 2017.
  • 12 million outpatients experience diagnostic errors every year.
  • 20% of Medicare beneficiaries in skilled nursing facilities experienced harm as a result of their medical care during their stay.
  • 33% of adverse events take place in hospital settings.

Medical Malpractice Statistics by State

Looking at medical malpractice statistics on a state level can show us how often claims occur in different regions and how they can vary among states. Based on the NPDB, here’s an overview of the total number of medical malpractice payment reports by state from 2012 to 2022.

  • New York had the highest number of medical malpractice payouts, totaling 16,845.
  • California and Florida followed closely behind, with both states topping out at more than 12,000 payouts.
  • North Dakota had the least amount, with only 102 payouts.
  • Eleven states and the District of Columbia had fewer than 500 payouts: Montana, Maine, Hawaii, Idaho, Delaware, Washington, D.C., Alaska, South Dakota, Wyoming, Vermont, and North Dakota.

State Total Malpractice Payment Reports 2012-2022
Alabama 790
Alaska 215
Arizona 2,312
Arkansas 680
California 13,174
Colorado 1,336
Connecticut 1,549
Delaware 300
District of Columbia 216
Florida 12,319
Georgia 3,234
Hawaii 381
Idaho 379
Illinois 4,287
Indiana 2,920
Iowa 813
Kansas 1,600
Kentucky 1,530
Louisiana 3,160
Maine 433
Maryland 2,812
Massachusetts 3,010
Michigan 3,774
Minnesota 685
Mississippi 842
Missouri 2,108
Montana 450
Nebraska 518
Nevada 959
New Hampshire 564
New Jersey 6,476
New Mexico 1,330
New York 16,845
North Carolina 1,673
North Dakota 102
Ohio 2,521
Oklahoma 1,706
Oregon 1,260
Pennsylvania 9,075
Rhode Island 568
South Carolina 1,796
South Dakota 207
Tennessee 1,531
Texas 6,218
Utah 926
Vermont 147
Virginia 1,814
Washington 2,043
West Virginia 1,159
Wisconsin 618
Wyoming 170

Medical Malpractice Statistics by Specialty

While it’s difficult to account for the number of claims made against any practitioner type, the NPDB breaks down by specialty the number of malpractice payments made as a result of:

  • An adjudication (a judge’s formal decision on a disputed matter) or arbitration (the use of a third party to help settle a dispute) in favor of the patient or patient’s family
  • Settlements agreed to by the parties

As you look at the numbers, remember not all patients injured by practitioner error file a claim.

The NPDB clearly shows that physicians have the highest number of medical malpractice payment reports. Of all malpractice payment reports filed between 2012 and 2022, 74% were against physicians. However, nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, physical therapists, and other health professionals aren’t exempt from the possibility of being sued (and having financial liability to cover the claim). The table that follows breaks down the specifics.

Practitioner Type Total Malpractice Payment Reports 2012-2022
Physician (MD) 85,346
Physician (DO) 7,962
Chiropractor 1,744
Dental Hygienist/Assistant 48
Dentist 14,440
Nurse - Adv. Practice Nurse 3,872
Nurse - Registered Nurse 3,622
Nurse - Practical Nurse 491
Nursing Paraprofessionals 175
Optometrist 438
Pharmacist 581
Physician Assistant 2,225
Podiatrist 2,457
Psychologist 268
Social Worker 1,340
Technicians and Assistants 419
Therapists and Counselors 125
Other 616

Medical Malpractice Death Statistics

Unfortunately, medical malpractice can sometimes lead to patient fatalities. While it's important to note that not all medical malpractice cases result in death, exploring this aspect sheds light on the severity and potential risks associated with negligent healthcare practices. The discussion that follows uses the most recent published data on death statistics.

The challenge, however, is finding information on medical malpractice-related deaths. The lack of reporting, the varying definitions, and the difficulty determining causality present problems. A few studies offer insight. Let’s take a look:

Why are the medical malpractice death statistics in these studies so drastically different? There may have been variations in the definition of medical errors and adverse effects between the studies, causing the reported figures to vary. But other factors, too, could explain the differences, meaning it is hard to know for sure.

Medical Malpractice Cost Statistics

Although the proportion of cases that go to trial has decreased in the last two decades, the severity of medical malpractice cases has risen, according to the Aon/ASHRM Hospital and Physician Professional Liability Benchmark Report in October 2020.

In 2008, medical errors in the U.S. cost $19.5 billion, which, when adjusted for inflation, would equal just over $28 billion in 2023. However, it’s critical to note that tallying up medical malpractice insurance cost statistics by dollar amount is nearly impossible.

The cost involved with defending a practitioner could include:

  • Attorneys’ fees
  • Investigator fees
  • Expert witness fees
  • Court fees
  • Trial fees
  • Damages payments (if found liable) or settlement payments

According to the Aon/ASHRM Benchmark Report, the annual average cost of the 50 largest medical malpractice claim verdicts from 2016 to 2019 was $22.9 million. However, medical claims data doesn’t capture the full extent of costs associated with medical errors. For instance, uncoded errors in claim databases aren’t measured. The cost of errors that result in death outside of hospitals or in pain and suffering isn’t measured either.

Insurance Cost Statistics

The cost of medical malpractice insurance premiums is generally influenced by several factors. First, the specialty of the healthcare professional plays a role, as different specialties entail varying levels of risk. Specialties with higher risks, such as emergency room care or anesthesia, tend to have higher insurance costs compared to lower-risk specialties like pediatrics. From 2012 to 2022, claims payouts have varied by practitioner type:

  • Physician medical malpractice payouts: $36,453 million
  • Nursing professional medical malpractice payouts (including registered nurses, advanced practice nurses, practical nurses, and nursing paraprofessionals): $2,826 million
  • Physician assistant medical malpractice payouts: $678 million
  • Psychologist, therapist, counselor, and social worker medical malpractice payouts: $237 million

However, according to the NPDB, medical malpractice statistics by state also show significant payment variations between 2012 to 2022. Several factors come into play, such as the severity of the incident, legal processes and regulations, and the resources of the healthcare system of each state.

  • New York had the highest payout amount of $7,158.43 million.
  • California ($2,697.47 million), Florida ($3,116.83 million), Pennsylvania ($3,648.18 million), and New Jersey ($2,578.71 million) also had notable payment amounts.
  • Three states and the District of Columbia had payouts under $100 million: Washington, D.C., Wyoming, Vermont, and North Dakota.
  • The lowest payout amounts were seen in North Dakota ($27.82 million), Vermont ($53.14 million), and Wyoming ($58.41 million).

State Medical Malpractice Payment Amount (in millions)
Alabama $369.00
Alaska $136.07
Arizona $782.95
Arkansas $212.81
California $2,697.47
Colorado $420.22
Connecticut $845.20
Delaware $122.02
District of Columbia $86.34
Florida $3,116.83
Georgia $1,396.09
Hawaii $152.86
Idaho $132.13
Illinois $2,442.18
Indiana $682.43
Iowa $305.55
Kansas $306.69
Kentucky $456.28
Louisiana $672.65
Maine $202.76
Maryland $1,052.21
Massachusetts $1,764.89
Michigan $791.71
Minnesota $386.69
Mississippi $212.60
Missouri $660.17
Montana $121.28
Nebraska $154.74
Nevada $263.52
New Hampshire $267.49
New Jersey $2,578.71
New Mexico $430.35
New York $7,158.43
North Carolina $533.97
North Dakota $27.82
Ohio $927.73
Oklahoma $431.69
Oregon $534.50
Pennsylvania $3,648.18
Rhode Island $284.80
South Carolina $501.32
South Dakota $104.19
Tennessee $495.27
Texas $1,161.58
Utah $250.63
Vermont $53.14
Virginia $721.75
Washington $750.41
West Virginia $374.73
Wisconsin $224.35
Wyoming $58.41

Malpractice Happens: Make Sure You're Prepared

Despite sometimes being baseless or not resulting in payouts, medical malpractice lawsuits do happen. So as a medical professional, it’s essential to prepare yourself for a malpractice claim by making sure you have coverage that includes protection against litigation costs.

Having an individual malpractice policy acts like your own personal safety net, there to catch you if something goes wrong. It's not just about lawsuits — it can be a game-changer in a licensing board dispute too. So, whether you're just starting out or well into your career, it's always a good idea to make sure you're protected. After all, a bit of foresight can save a lot of headaches down the line.

At Berxi, we understand the unique challenges you face. That’s why we cater insurance solutions to the needs of nurse practitioners, nurses, physician assistants, physical therapists, and other allied healthcare professionals. With a Berxi policy, you’ll have a safeguard against potential claims and support for your professional reputation.

In addition to our reputation for providing reliable coverage and affordable rates, getting a quote is a breeze. You can explore coverage options, customize your policy, and get a quote in just a few clicks — without jumping through hoops.

Last updated on Mar 26, 2024.

Originally published on Apr 28, 2020.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Berxi™ or Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company. This article (subject to change without notice) is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute professional advice.

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