Fewer Malpractice Cases Per National Practioner Data Bank

DM Studdert, MA Hall. NEJM 2022; 387: 1533-1537. Medical Malpractice Law — Doctrine and Dynamic

This article reviews the topic of malpractice and the hurdles for plaintiffs to establish liability. Some of the interesting points:

  • “Patients lose about 80% of medical malpractice trials.3 However, fewer than 1 in 20 claims end in courtroom verdicts; about one third are settled out of court with a payment to the patient, and the remainder are dropped or dismissed.3
  • “NPDB data reveal a remarkable phenomenon: the number of paid claims against physicians has decreased by 75% in the past 20 years.” The potential reasons include tort reform, greater openness about medical errors may have reduced patients’ inclination to sue, better medical care (no evidence of this), and incomplete NPDB data. With regard to incomplete data, this can occur with “corporate shielding” in which institutions assume liability and payment responsibility in claims against physicians, thus averting reporting requirements).

In the graph, “payments have been adjusted to 2021 dollars using the consumer price index for all urban consumers (https://data.bls.gov/PDQWeb/cu. opens in new tab).”

Related blog post: “Physician-Patient Relationship is Not Necessary to Sue Docs for Malpractice”