High and low-risk specialties experience with the U.S. medical malpractice system

Aaron E. Carroll, Jennifer L. Buddenbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Scopus citations


Background: "High-liability risk specialties" tend to be the focus of medical malpractice system research and debate, but concerns and fears are not limited to this group. The objective of this study was to examine whether "high-liability risk" medical specialties have a different experience with the malpractice system than "low-liability risk" specialties. Methods. We reviewed claims data from the Physician Insurers Association of America's Data Sharing Project between January 1985 and December 2008. We used linear regression, controlling for year, to determine how liability risk affected outcomes of interest. Results: In high-liability risk specialties, 33% of claims result in indemnity payments compared to 28% for low-liability risk specialties (p < 0.001). The average indemnity payment for high-liability risk specialties was $315,314 compared to $267,146 for low-liability risk specialties (p = 0.25). Although only a small percentage of claims go to trial, low-liability risk specialties have significantly more claims that are ultimately dropped, withdrawn or dismissed, while high-liability risk specialties have significantly more claims that result in plaintiff settlement (p < 0.001). Conclusions: Malpractice risk exists for all specialties. Variability in indemnity costs are found in both high- and low-liability risk specialties. Differences in the reasons for which claims are initiated for high- and low-liability risk specialties likely necessitate different risk management solutions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number465
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy

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