QUALITY: Malpractice Jury-Award Median Up Slightly

A new study out from Jury Verdict Research shows that the median malpractice award for 2002 was stuck at $1m–no real increase from 2001. The proportion of successful cases brought against doctors went up slightly but was still only 42%. This is though up from 29% in 1996. Although the denominator is not in this report, the total amount awarded was estimated at $4.2 billion in 2002 according to these data from the National Practitioner Databank. The figures disagree from Jury Research’s in that in 2002 the National Practitioner Databank estimated that there were 452 awards for a median of $286K and a mean of $506K (implying some 650 odd cases that made it to court and were won by the defendant physician). But in any even the vast majority of the $4.2 billion handed over was in settlements, of which there were 14,852 in 2002. In other words around 7% of cases make it to court, and around 15,000 cases end up with money paid to the plaintiff each year.

Given that there are around 550,000 practicing doctors in the US, this means that roughly 3% are in some way being successfully sued for malpractice each year. When you look at it that way, it’s not that big a problem. (Cue barrage of email, no doubt!).

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