Medical Lawsuits By the Numbers

doctor1In defending the medical liability status quo, trial attorneys’ associations frequently argue that, instead of tort reform, the medical professions need to do a better job of policing their comparably few bad actors who generate the most malpractice litigation.

There’s a new study, though, that shows it’s not just a few doctors who get slapped with lawsuits – suits that, more often than not, are without sufficient merit.

A survey of nearly 6,000 physicians by the American Medical Association has found that, among doctors 55 and older, more than six of every 10 have been sued at some point in their career.  For every 100 physicians surveyed, there have been an average of 95 liability cases filed.

As to the merit of these cases, only five percent of the lawsuits actually went to trial.  Sixty-five percent were dropped, dismissed or withdrawn.  Of the five percent that made it to trial, 90 percent were decided in favor of the defendant, according to the Physician Insurers Association of America.

With these numbers in mind, AMA immediate past president J. James Rohack, M.D. raised legitimate concerns when he said, “Even though the vast majority of claims are dropped or decided in favor of physicians, the understandable fear of meritless lawsuits can influence what specialty of medicine physicians practice, where they practice and when they retire.”