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Prevalence of Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice statistics provide insight into how often patients file claims, where they typically file them, how much they typically receive, and more. This report also explains medical malpractice prevalence among different demographic groups, the most common types of claims, and more.

Statistics on medical malpractice

Generally, medical malpractice refers to medical care that falls below an accepted professional standard. If a patient proves they had a duty to provide services, failed to do so, and caused damage, any healthcare provider can be held responsible for their actions.

To understand just how often healthcare providers make mistakes, check out these comprehensive medical malpractice statistics from 2022 and prior years:

  • While providing care, one in three providers is sued for medical malpractice.
  • Approximately 3% to 15% of all medical interventions are caused by preventable errors.
  • Misdiagnosis is one of the most common types of malpractice. Cancer, infections, and vascular events are the most commonly misdiagnosed conditions.
  • Medications such as insulin and morphine have the highest rate of prescription errors.
  • Malpractice lawsuits are most likely to be filed against surgeons.
  • 9% of successful medical malpractice cases are settled out of court.

Deaths caused by medical malpractice

One of the most deadly risks in the country is care provider negligence, only second to heart disease and cancer. Medical errors get less attention than chronic respiratory diseases, even though they account for over 100,000 fewer deaths per year. Researchers believe that how medical errors are reported causes these deaths to receive less attention.

It is possible for surviving loved ones to file a lawsuit if a patient dies due to medical negligence, but how often does medical negligence result in death?

  • Each year, 251,000 people die as a result of medical errors
  • Medical malpractice is a leading cause of death in the U.S., accounting for 9.5% of all deaths each year.
  • In the United States, medical malpractice is the third leading cause of death.
  • The most common causes of medical malpractice

Any cause of medical malpractice can give rise to a successful personal injury claim as long as a patient can prove they were harmed due to a care provider's failure to fulfill their obligation.

Malpractice cases commonly include:

About a third (32%) of medical malpractice claims are related to misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis. One-quarter of all medical malpractice claims are related to surgical errors.

Each year, prescription errors cause $3.5 billion in damages to 1.5 million people.

Medical malpractice claims involving anesthesia errors account for 2.7% of all claims.

Often, patients must find expert witnesses to prove that the care provider failed to meet the standards of professionalism expected of a similarly trained doctor and that their failures, not the patient's underlying medical issues, caused the damage. This can make it difficult to prove causation.

Physicians' training and qualifications are considered when assessing malpractice claims. 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 who specialize in that area, for example.

State-by-state medical malpractice statistics

Even though medical malpractice occurs throughout the country, some states have a higher risk than others.

  • With 4,638 medical malpractice reports in 2022, California had the highest number of claims per capita.
  • In 2022, Vermont, Hawaii, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Idaho reported the lowest number of medical malpractice cases per capita.
  • There were $551 million and $382 million in medical malpractice damages paid in New York and Florida, respectively, in 2022.

A victim has the right to seek redress through the legal system in every state. To determine how quickly a case can be filed before it is time-barred, victims should consult a local lawyer. However, medical malpractice statutes of limitations vary by state.

Demographics of Medical Malpractice

The United States healthcare system is characterized by disparities in quality of care by race, age, gender, and location.

  • Medical malpractice claims are most likely to be filed by women over 40.
  • Medical malpractice claims are more likely to be filed by white patients than by black patients.
  • Medical malpractice is more likely to occur to patients over the age of 65.
  • Access to quality care is more difficult for rural and urban patients16.

It is more common for male doctors to be sued for medical malpractice than female doctors, with 42 claims per 100 female physicians compared with 75 claims per 100 male physicians.

Statistics on medical malpractice settlements

The average medical malpractice personal injury settlement was $329,565 between 2009 and 2014. However, the average is calculated by adding up all settlements and dividing that amount by the number of plaintiffs compensated. Although many patients received smaller sums, some very high settlements drove up this figure.

Here's what you need to know about medical malpractice settlements.

Typically, the highest medical malpractice settlements result from unnecessary procedures and failure to treat fetal distress.

Medical malpractice payouts in 2019 reached $205 million in a case involving a brain injury during childbirth.

Approximately 80 to 90% of defensible malpractice claims are dismissed without settlement.