Medical Malpractice Statistics Of 2024 – Forbes Advisor – Forbes

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This deep dive into medical malpractice statistics reveals how often patients file claims, where they file most often, how much they typically receive and other essential information. Find figures that detail the prevalence of medical malpractice amongst different demographics, the most common types of claims and more.

Key Medical Malpractice Statistics

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Medical malpractice is generally defined as medical care that falls below the accepted professional standard of care. Any healthcare provider can be held liable if a patient can prove they had a duty to provide services, failed to perform as a similarly trained professional would and that they caused damage as a result.

Unfortunately, medical malpractice happens daily in hospitals, clinics and other care settings throughout the United States. To understand just how often healthcare providers make errors, check out these comprehensive medical malpractice statistics from 2022 and prior years:

  • One in three care providers is sued for medical malpractice during their care.1
  • Care providers make avoidable errors in 3% to 15% of all medical interventions.2
  • Misdiagnosis is one of the most common types of malpractice. Cancer, infections and vascular events are the conditions most likely to be misdiagnosed.3
  • Prescription errors are also prevalent. Insulin and morphine are the two most error-prone medications.4
  • Surgeons are the care providers most likely to be sued for malpractice.5
  • 96.9% of successful medical malpractice claims are settled out of court.6


Medical Malpractice Deaths

Negligence on the part of care providers is one of the most deadly risks in America, with only heart disease and cancer taking more lives. Researchers believe the way medical error deaths are reported causes these deaths to get less attention than chronic respiratory disease, for example, even though the latter accounts for over 100,000 fewer deaths annually.

When a patient dies due to a careless provider, surviving loved ones can pursue a legal claim for the financial and non-economic losses resulting from the untimely death. But how often does medical negligence have deadly consequences?

  • Medical errors cause 251,000 fatalities annually.7
  • Medical errors account for 9.5% of all deaths in the U.S. each year, making medical malpractice a leading cause of death.7
  • Medical malpractice is the third most common cause of death in the United States.7


Common Medical Malpractice Causes

Some medical errors are more common than others. However, any causes of medical malpractice can give rise to a successful personal injury claim as long as a patient can prove they were harmed as a direct result of a care provider’s failure to fulfill their obligations.

Some of the most common types of malpractice cases include:

  • Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis accounts for nearly one-third (32%) of medical malpractice claims.8
  • Surgical errors account for one-quarter of all claims against negligent care providers.8
  • Prescription errors harm 1.5 million people annually, causing $3.5 billion in damages.9
  • Anesthesia errors account for 2.7% of medical malpractice claims.10

Proving causation can be challenging, as patients often must find expert witnesses to testify that their care provider’s actions were below the level of professionalism expected of a similarly trained doctor and that their failures—not the patient’s underlying medical issues—were the cause of damage.

When assessing malpractice claims, physicians are judged based on their training and qualifications. When determining if a cardiologist committed malpractice in not diagnosing a heart attack, the provider’s actions would be compared with what a reasonably competent cardiologist would have done under the circumstances, while a gastroenterologist would be compared with other providers with that particular area of specialization, for example.


Medical Malpractice Statistics By State

Medical malpractice occurs throughout the country. Unfortunately, the risk of medical malpractice in some states is greater than in others.

  • California had the highest number of medical malpractice claims per capita, with 4,638 reports in 2022.11
  • Vermont, Hawaii, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Idaho had the lowest number of reported medical malpractice cases per capita in 2022.11
  • Medical malpractice payouts by state were highest in New York and Florida, where the total amount of medical malpractice damages paid in 2022 were $551 million and $382 million, respectively.12

In every state, victims have the right to use the legal system to pursue a remedy. However, there are differences in the medical malpractice statutes of limitations by state, so victims should speak with a local lawyer to find out how quickly they must pursue their case before it is time-barred.


Medical Malpractice Statistics By Demographic

Statistics illustrate that disparities in the quality of care by race, age, gender and location are prevalent throughout the United States healthcare system. In particular:

  • Females age 40 and over are most likely to make medical malpractice claims.13
  • White patients are more likely than black patients to report malpractice or file medical malpractice claims.14
  • Patients over age 65 are 12% more likely to be victims of medical malpractice.15
  • Rural patients face greater difficulties in accessing quality care than patients in urban areas.16
  • Male doctors are more likely than females to be sued for medical malpractice, with 42 claims per 100 female physicians versus 75 claims per 100 male physicians.17


Medical Malpractice Settlements Statistics

While the average personal injury settlement for medical malpractice was $329,565 between 2009 and 2014,18 remember that this is an average based on adding up the total of all settlements and dividing that amount by the number of plaintiffs compensated. Some very high settlements drove up this number, while many patients received smaller sums.

Here’s what you need to know about the average medical malpractice settlement.

  • The highest medical malpractice settlements usually occur in claims arising from unnecessary procedures and failure to treat fetal distress.19
  • In 2019, the largest payout in a medical malpractice claim was $205 million in a case resulting from a brain injury during childbirth.20
  • Between 80 and 90% of defensible malpractice claims are dismissed with no settlement.10


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Sources

  1. National Institutes of Health. Medical Malpractice.
  2. National Institutes of Health. Clinical Errors and Medical Negligence.
  3. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Johns Hopkins Medicine Researchers Identify Health Conditions Likely to be Misdiagnosed
  4. Medscape. The “Top 10” Drug Errors and How to Prevent Them
  5. National Library of Medicine. An Introduction to Medical Malpractice in the United States.
  6. National Institutes of Health. Characteristics of paid malpractice claims settled in and out of court in the USA: a retrospective analysis
  7. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Study Suggests Medical Errors Now Third Leading Cause of Death in the U.S.
  8. Fierce Healthcare. Surgery is the 2nd most common reason for medical malpractice claims, report says.
  9. Journal of Community Hospital Internal Medicine Perspectives. The alarming reality of medication error: a patient case and review of Pennsylvania and National data.
  10. National Practitioner Data Bank. Data Analysis Tool
  11. Cohen, Placitella & Roth. Medical Malpractice Payouts by State: A Comparison Guide.
  12.  Percy Martinez P.A. What percentage of malpractice suits are successful in Florida
  13. Journal of Patient Safety. Race Differences in a Malpractice Event Database in a Large Healthcare System
  14. The New England Journal of Medicine. Claims, Errors, and Compensation Payments in Medical Malpractice Litigation
  15.  Association of American Medical Colleges. Health Disparities Affect Millions in Rural U.S. Communities.
  16. American Medical Association. AMA: One in three physicians previously sued in their career
  17. JAMA Intern Med. Rates and Characteristics of Paid Malpractice Claims Among US Physicians by Specialty, 1992-2014
  18. The Kryder Law Group. What Types of Cases Get the Largest Medical Malpractice Settlements and Awards
  19. WAMU. ‘Largest Medical Malpractice Verdict In U.S. History’ Awarded To Maryland Woman

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