In a recently reported survey of physicians in the United States, almost 1,400 of the responding physicians reported that they had been sued for medical malpractice (approximately 40% of the respondents had been named in a medical malpractice lawsuit, with 9% being named as the only defendant and 31% being named as one of multiple medical malpractice defendants). Female physicians who had been sued for malpractice reported a slightly lower rate of being named as the sole medical malpractice defendant – 18% versus 24% for male physicians.
The medical specialties reporting the most lawsuits were internal medicine (15%), family medicine (13%), ob/gyn (9%), psychiatry (8%), gastroenterology (6%), cardiology (6%), pediatrics (5%), emergency medicine (4%), and oncology (4%). Many specialties reported the fewest malpractice lawsuits, each at 1%, including critical care, dermatology, HIV/infectious disease, nephrology, neurology, ophthalmology, pathology, rheumatology, and urology (allergy and clinical immunology specialists reported 0.4% malpractice lawsuits).
The failure to diagnose represented 35% of all medical malpractice claims. Forty-one percent of the respondents who were sued stated that the malpractice lawsuit was distressing but did not effect their medical practices or their personal lives; 23% stated that the malpractice lawsuit was “one of the worse experiences of my life.” Seventy-four percent stated that they were surprised to have been sued for medical malpractice. Forty-two percent of the respondents reported that they were dismissed from the malpractice lawsuit at some point in the litigation, 32% reported that the lawsuit was settled at some point in the litigation, and 16% of the lawsuits resulted in a verdict. Twenty-eight percent of the respondents spent more than 40 hours of their time in defense of the medical malpractice claims against them, and 30% spent more than 40 hours in court or in trial-related meetings.
Twenty-two percent of the medical malpractice lawsuits took less than one year to be resolved, 39% took between one and two years, 28% took between three and five years, and 11% took more than five years to reach a resolution. Thirty-five percent of the survey respondents reported that the malpractice lawsuit filed against them was settled prior to trial, 13% ended in a defense verdict, and 2% resulted in a verdict in favor of the plaintiff.
Fifty-seven percent of the malpractice lawsuits resulted in no payments being made, while 11% resulted in payments in excess of $1 million to the plaintiffs. Thirty-eight percent of the respondents felt that the result of the litigation was unfair to them. Ninety-three percent believed that it would have made no difference with regard to the medical malpractice lawsuit had they apologized to the patient.
The survey demographics: 66% were male, 30% were between ages 35 to 44, 26% were between ages 45 to 54, and 23% were between ages 55 to 64. The survey involved 3,480 physicians in the United States in 25 medical specialties and was conducted between June 7 and June 28, 2013.
If you or a loved one may be the victim of medical malpractice 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.
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