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One-Third of Medical Malpractice Claims Linked to One Percent of Doctors

A new study found that 32 percent of medical malpractice claims are attributed to just one percent of doctors. The results are concerning because they suggest that many physicians continue to practice after numerous allegations of negligence.

"I think people will be surprised about the extent to which the claims are concentrated within a relatively small group of practitioners. It's actually more concentrated than in earlier studies," chief author David Studdert of Stanford University in California told Reuters Health.

As Reuters reports, the study analyzed 66,426 claims paid against 54,099 doctors from 2005 to 2014. The data was gathered from cases in the National Practitioner Data Bank in which payments were made. In almost all of the cases, the claims were resolved via out-of-court settlement. Below are several other key findings:

  • Nearly one third of the cases involved a patient death.
  • Alarmingly, 126 doctors had more than five paid claims against them.
  • The median payment among all medical malpractice claims was approximately $205,000.
  • Physicians who made payments in response to two medical malpractice lawsuits were twice as likely to be successfully sued for malpractice a third time compared to doctors who only had one paid claim against them. Doctors with more than five paid claims were 12 times more likely to be sued again.
  • Repeat malpractice claims were more common in certain specialties. For instance, recurrence rates were approximately two times higher among obstetricians, gynecologists, orthopedic surgeons, plastic surgeons, and general surgeons.
  • Doctors trained outside the United States were 12 percent more likely to have multiple paid claims.

The study concludes that the medical profession must develop programs to address claim-prone physicians. Given that recurrent malpractice claims suggest a threat to patient safety, we share the concern.

If you or someone you care about has suffered serious harm due to a medical error, you may be entitled to compensation, such as pain and suffering damages and reimbursement of medical expenses. For more information, please contact a San Diego medical malpractice attorney at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for a free consultation.