AMA Says 95 out of 100 Physicians Are Hit with Medical Liability Claims

August 5, 2010

The American Medical Insurance (AMA) has released a new report that reveals a scary statistic: an average of 95 medical liability claims are filed for every 100 physicians. That’s almost one claim per doctor.

According to the AMA, its report has data not available anywhere else, and includes information on how medical liability claims are impacted by age, gender, and type of practice for physicians.

According to the Insurance Journal highlights of the report include:

  1. Nearly 61 percent of physicians age 55 and over have been sued.
  2. There is wide variation in the impact of liability claims between specialties. The number of claims per 100 physicians was more than five times greater for general surgeons and obstetricians/gynecologists than it was for pediatricians and psychiatrists.
  3. Before they reach the age of 40, more than 50 percent of obstetricians/gynecologists have already been sued.
  4. Ninety percent of general surgeons age 55 and over have been sued.

The AMA’s immediate past-president J. James Rohack, M.D., talked about the report, saying, “Even though the vast majority of claims are dropped or decided in favor of physicians, the understandable fear of meritless lawsuits can influence what specialty of medicine physicians practice, where they practice and when they retire. This litigious climate hurts patients’ access to physician care at a time when the nation is working to reduce unnecessary health care costs.”

The AMA says that the number of medical liability claims is not an indication of the frequency of medical error, as the physician prevails 90 percent of the time in cases that go to trial, but even though 65% of claims are either dropped or dismissed they’re not without cost. The average defense of a medical liability claims ranges from $22,000 for the dropped or dismissed claims to more than $100,000 for those that go to trial, leading to increased costs for both physicians and patients.

Rohack said the findings “validate the need for national and state medical liability reform.”