1% of Physicians Account for 32% of Paid Malpractice Claims

Image from StockMonkeys.comIt turns out that some doctors are more prone to malpractice claims than others. Unsurprising as this may seem, the imbalance of malpractice claim distribution among physicians is very telling.
The New England Journal of Medicine published an article this January which outlines the distribution of malpractice claims among physicians. The article, by David Studdert, et al, concludes that 1% of physicians accounted for 32% of all paid malpractice claims over the ten year period studied.

The authors used data from the National Practitioner Data Bank to analyze over 65,000 malpractice claims which were paid out against 54,000 practitioners between 2005 and 2014. 16% of all physicians had more than one paid malpractice claim which accounted for 32% of all claims in the study. Additionally, 4% of physicians had paid three or more claims, which accounts for 12% of the total number.

Another finding of this study would indicate that those practitioners who have paid out two or more claims have a very high likelihood of facing additional suits in the following two years. 2,160 physicians who paid three claims had a 24% chance of paying another malpractice claim within that two year period. This downward spiral accounts for a majority of total claims paid out.

Physicians face malpractice suits for many reasons, and we shouldn’t make too many assumptions about those individuals who have lost claims. The study would certainly indicate that some practitioners are particularly prone to malpractice claims. This serves to underscore the importance of avoiding your first malpractice suit, and if a physician has paid one claim they may really want to learn how to avoid a second.


David M. Studdert, L.L.B., Sc.D., Marie M. Bismark, M.B., Ch.B., L.L.B., Michelle M. Mello, J.D., Ph.D., Harnam Singh, Ph.D., and Matthew J. Spittal, Ph.D. “Prevalence and Characteristics of Physicians Prone to Malpractice Claims” N Engl J Med 2016; 374:354-362January 28, 2016DOI: 10.1056/NEJMsa1506137