A new study led by a Stanford professor published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that a tiny fraction (1%) of doctors accounted for nearly a third of all medical malpractice settlements. The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in a special article “Prevalence and Characteristics of Physicians Prone to Malpractice Claims.”
The study looked at malpractice settlements and verdicts reported in the National Practitioner Data Bank, a databank of medical malpractice claims paid by doctors from 2004 to 2014. 84% of doctors had only one medical malpractice settlement during the study period (68% of all claims), 16% had at least two medical malpractice settlements (accounting for 32% of the claims), and 4% had at least three medical malpractice settlements (accounting for 12% of the claims).
According to the study, almost one-third of the claims related to wrongful deaths of patients. 54 percent of the medical malpractice settlements were caused by serious physical injury to the patient. And only 3 percent of the medical malpractice claims were tried to a jury who returned verdicts for the patient. The rest were in out-of-court settlements. Settlements and court-ordered payments averaged $371,054 in this study.
The study found that biggest predictor of incurring multiple medical malpractice settlements was a physician’s history of medical malpractice settlements or verdicts. Doctors who had two medical malpractice settlements or verdicts had nearly two times the risk of another one compared to doctors who had only had one medical malpractice settlement or verdict. Likewise, physicians with three settlements or verdicts had triple the risk. And doctors with six or more medical malpractice settlements or verdicts were more than 12 times likely to have another medical malpractice incident.