Majority of Medical Specialists Have Been Involved in Medical Malpractice Lawsuits, Report Finds

The survey found 98% of plaintiffs received some kind of monetary payment after filing a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Plastic surgeons, general surgeons, orthopedists, and urologists are among the top categories of physician specialists likely to face medical malpractice lawsuits, according to the findings of a new survey, with a failure to diagnose being the most likely cause of malpractice claims this year.

The 2021 Medscape Malpractice Report was published on November 19, surveying thousands of doctors in 29 specialty areas, to evaluate the risk lawsuits over medical malpractice.

The survey took place online from May 21 through August 28, and involved 4,358 doctors who practice in the United States. Researchers found that this year saw an overall drop in medical malpractice lawsuits compared to two years ago, which researchers speculate may be due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the findings, 83% of plastic surgeons and general surgeons say they have ever been named in a malpractice lawsuit. They were followed by 81% of orthopedic surgeons, and 80% of urologists. In addition, more than half of all specialists in OB/GYN, specialized surgery, emergency medicine, otolaryngology, radiology and cardiology also say they have faced at least one malpractice suit during their careers.

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Overall, 56% of specialists say they had ever been named in a medical malpractice lawsuit, compared to just 42% of primary care physicians. Just under one-third of doctors who were named in a medical malpractice complaint say it negatively affected their career.

The most common reason for a malpractice lawsuit was a failure to diagnose or a delayed diagnosis, which accounted for 31% of reported malpractice lawsuits. That was followed by complications from treatment or surgery, which accounted for 29% of reported lawsuits, as well as poor outcomes or disease progression, which accounted for 26%.

The top 10 states where medical malpractice lawsuits were filed included Indiana, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, New Jersey, South Carolina, Louisiana, Tennessee, North Carolina and Maryland.

Very few cases actually reached trial, with 33% being settled out of court, 10% resulting in a defense verdict, 2% resulting in a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, and 2% being settled during trial. The rest were either ongoing or resolved through some other means, according to the doctors surveyed.

Despite those numbers, doctors indicate 98% of plaintiffs received a monetary payment, with 40% receiving up to $100,000, 35% receiving up to $500,000, 15% receiving up to $1 million, 4% receiving up to $2 million, and 4% receiving more than $2 million.


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