Earlier this month, Public Citizen, the well-respected national non-profit organization that represents consumer interests with more than 300,000 members and supporters, issued its report entitled, “Medical Malpractice Payments Remained At Historic Low In 2013 Despite Slight Uptick,” that reported that the number and cumulative value of medical malpractice payments made on behalf of doctors in the United States increased slightly in 2013, which was the first increase in a decade, but the number and value of the medical malpractice payments remained at historic lows.
The number of payments made on behalf of doctors was 9,370 in 2012, and rose slightly to 9,677 in 2013 (62% of which were for a significant permanent injury, major permanent injury, quadriplegia, brain damage, the need for lifelong care, or death), based on Public Citizen’s analysis of data from the National Practitioner Data Bank (“NPDB”). The total amount of the medical malpractice payments made in 2013 was $3.3 billion (an increase of 3.7% from 2012), which was lower than in any year from 1999 to 2011.
Medical malpractice payments made in 2013 represented only 0.11% of health care costs in the United States in 2013.
Furthermore, medical malpractice insurance rates were found to have continued to decrease in 2013. For instance, The Doctors Company, which is the largest physician-owned medical malpractice insurer in the United States, reported that its medical malpractice insurance rates dropped by 35% between 2005 and 2012, and its rates for 2013 decreased between 2.8% and 45.7% in five U.S. states (Idaho, Illinois, Oregon, Mississippi, Oregon, and Washington).
Total medical liability insurance premiums paid by physicians and medical institutions (medical malpractice payments paid by or on behalf of institutions are not reported to the NPDB) decreased from $10 billion in 2012 to $9.8 billion in 2013, with cumulative payments for liability insurance premiums decreasing by 16.4% when compared to the cumulative payments paid in 2005.
Even with the decreasing medical malpractice insurance rates, medical malpractice insurers are continuing to enjoy record profits: the fourth-largest medical malpractice insurer in the United States, ProInsurance, had profit margins of 64.7% in 2013, 86% in 2012, and 91% in 2011.
Public Citizen notes that “the percentage of patients who receive payments is only a tiny fraction of those suffering avoidable injuries. This conclusion is evidenced by comparing the number of payments (fewer than 10,000 made on behalf of doctors in 2013) with the number whom experts say suffer avoidable injuries (as high as 8 million, according to the Journal of Patient Safety study …).”
After referencing a 2007 Harvard School of Health analysis of existing literature that found that only “2 to 3 percent of patients injured by negligence file malpractice claims and, of these, only about half recover compensation through the litigation process,” Public Citizen proffered, “An essential first step would be for the AMA and other leaders to commit the same level of energy to eradicating avoidable adverse events in hospitals as they have in pursuit of laws to limit doctors’ liability for those adverse events. In other words, the AMA and other peer groups should demonstrate that they are as concerned about the 98 to 99 percent of adverse events that do not result in liability payments as they are about the payments that do result from 1 to 2 percent of adverse events.”
If you or a loved one suffered serious injuries (or worse) as a result of medical negligence in the United States, you should promptly consult with a local medical malpractice attorney in your state who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
Click here to visit our website or call us toll-free at 800-295-3959 to be connected with medical malpractice lawyers in your state who may assist you.
Turn to us when you don’t know where to turn.