New research suggests the number of medical malpractice lawsuits filed against pediatricians has decreased in recent years.
In a study published online in the medical journal Pediatrics on March 25, researchers found a decline in the number of pediatric malpractice cases filed from 1987 to 2015. However, the median amount paid out for such cases remained unchanged, and the damages are typically still higher than most other types of medical malpractice lawsuits.
The researchers conducted seven periodic surveys of American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) members from 1987 to 2015.
According to the findings, the number of claims peaked in 1990, with 33% of pediatricians reporting they had, at some point, been the subject of any claim or lawsuit. By 2015, that number had dropped to 21%. However, the median indemnity during the study period has gone unchanged, with an average of $128,000 in 2018 dollars.
Those facing the greatest risk of a pediatric medical malpractice lawsuit were pediatricians who were male, had a longer career, and worked more hours. They were also more likely to have a hospital-based subspecialty, like neonatology, pediatric critical care, pediatric emergency medicine, and hospital medicine.
“From 1987 to 2015, the proportion of pediatricians sued has decreased and median indemnity has remained unchanged. Male pediatricians and hospital-based subspecialists were more likely to have been sued,” the researchers concluded. “Greater knowledge of the epidemiology of malpractice claims against pediatricians is valuable because it can impact practice arrangements, advise risk-management decisions, influence quality and safety projects, and provide data to guide advocacy for appropriate tort reform and future research.”
A report issued in February 2017 by the consumer watchdog group Public Citizen found that medical malpractice payments are at historic and all-time lows, indicating that in 2015, the most recent full year of data available, the malpractice costs accounted for only one-tenth of one percent of all healthcare costs. In addition. the number of malpractice payments doled out by doctors was the lowest on record.
The study also found that medical liability insurance premium payments are at a historic low as well, reaching their lowest levels since at least 2003, and only accounted for 0.3% of health care costs in 2015.