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    [Study] Medical Malpractice Statistics: Payments by State

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    Posted on May 10, 2023 To

    Medical Malpractice Statistics by State

    When we seek treatment from healthcare providers, we expect to receive the highest quality of care possible. Sometimes, however, grave mistakes and oversights can happen and lead to devastating outcomes for patients.

    Medical malpractice occurs when a medical provider fails to provide the proper standard of care to their patient, resulting in injury or wrongful death. It can happen in any type of setting that offers medical care, such as nursing homes, doctor’s offices, or hospitals. When patients suffer due to the negligence of a healthcare provider, they may file a personal injury lawsuit to seek compensation for the provider’s wrongdoing. Proving medical malpractice can be a lengthy and extensive process that involves presenting evidence, expert testimony, and working with an experienced lawyer.

    How often does medical malpractice occur and where? Who is most likely to be affected? Which healthcare professionals are most likely to be involved?

    While the true number of claims may never be known, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services maintains a database of all medical malpractice payments made in the U.S. Known as the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), this data can then be used for research and to evaluate the performance of medical providers.

    Tracking these payments is important to help identify potential concerns in the healthcare system as well as pinpoint providers with repeated claims of medical malpractice. It may also impact laws regarding medical malpractice payments.

    At Clifford Law Offices, we analyzed NPDB medical malpractice payment report data from between the years 2010 and 2022 to gain insight and find trends.

    What Are Medical Malpractice Payment Reports? How is the data reported?

    Medical malpractice payment reports are defined by the National Practitioner Data Bank as reports with “a monetary exchange as a result of a settlement or judgment of a written complaint or claim demanding payment based on a physician’s, dentist’s, or other licensed healthcare practitioner’s provision of or failure to provide health care services; and may include, but is not limited to, the filing of a cause of action, based on the law of tort, brought in any state or Federal Court or other adjudicative body.”

    The Medical Board for a given state typically receives reports about medical malpractice claims, and this information can be publicly available.

    How Many Medical Malpractice Payments Were Made?

    From 2010-2022, 156,871 medical malpractice payments were made in the United States and its territories. These payments totaled over $62 billion after adjusting for inflation.

    The total number of medical malpractice payments steadily decreased by more than 16 percent during the observation period. However, there was actually a sizable increase in 2022 – jumping 17 percent in a single year.

    Interestingly, while overall payments were down, larger payments have actually increased significantly. Payments of over $1 million were up almost 27 percent in 2022 over 2010, while small payments – under $100,000 – decreased by nearly 36 percent.

    Who is Most Likely to be Involved? Patients and Practitioners

    Female patients are more likely to receive medical malpractice payments than male patients. In fact, 57 percent of all payments were made as a result of female victims of medical malpractice. The differences are even more pronounced in patients aged 20 – 39, where more than 68 percent were female.

    On the other hand, in cases involving young children (under the age of 10), the victim is much more likely to be male. Male children represented 56 percent of payments, compared to 44 percent for female children.

    Among healthcare professionals, physicians are far and away the most likely type of provider to be named in medical malpractice payment reports. By license field, Physicians accounted for 116,419 payments – more than 74 percent of medical malpractice payments during the period. Dentists were a distant second with 17,968 payments, followed by advanced practice nurses with 4,598.

    Table: Medical Malpractice Payments by Healthcare Practitioner Type

    License Field Number of Payments Inflation Adjusted Total (millions)
    Physician (MD) 106,730 $49,150.48
    Dentist 17,968 $1,856.43
    Physician (DO) 9,689 $4,230.88
    Nurse – Adv. Practice Nurse 4,598 $1,932.21
    Nurse – Registered Nurse 4,473 $1,836.42
    Podiatrist 3,046 $779.49
    Physician Assistant 2,694 $923.57
    Chiropractor 2,177 $358.45
    Therapists and Counselors 1,619 $198.28
    Other 751 $139.33
    Pharmacist 673 $98.01
    Nurse – Practical Nurse 589 $180.83
    Technicians and Assistants 548 $153.35
    Optometrist 534 $163.11
    Psychologist 363 $71.26
    Nursing Para-Professionals 205 $52.15
    Social Worker 159 $29.91
    Dental Hygienist/Assistant 55 $5.85

    Which States Had the Most Medical Malpractice Payments?

    As you might expect, larger states generally had more malpractice payments during the observation year. Five states – New York, California, Florida, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey accounted for 45 percent of all medical malpractice payments.

    When adjusted for population, however, interesting trends emerge. On an annual rate per 1 million population, New York retains the highest number of payments, but West Virginia and Louisiana enter the top five – along with Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Less populated states that rank among the top ten include New Mexico, Kansas, and Rhode Island.
    Interestingly, the highly populated states of Ohio, North Carolina, and Texas are among the ten states with the lowest rates of medical malpractice payments.

    Total Amount Paid by State

    In terms of the total amount of payments made, medical malpractice payments in New York totaled more than $10.4 billion – over 17 percent of all money paid during the observation period. This was also more than double that of Pennsylvania, the next closest state.

    Major Mistakes: Examining Payments over $1 million

    There were 16,114 medical malpractice payments made in excess of $1 million totaling more than $28 billion during the observation period. What errors led to large payments? Where were they most likely to be made?

    The five most common allegations were errors involving failure to diagnose, improper performance, improper management, delay in diagnosis, and failure to identify fetal distress.

    New York had the most payments of $1 million or more, with 3,506 totaling $5.5 billion. Illinois was second with 1,317 for a total of over $2.4 billion, followed by California – 1,166 for $1.7 billion, New Jersey with 998 for $1.7 billion, and Massachusetts with 818 for $1.6 billion.

    Table: Medical Malpractice Payment Statistics by State

    The table below includes the number of payments made, annual payments per 1 million population, and the inflation-adjusted total amount paid between the years 2010 and 2022.

    State Total Payments Annual Payments per 1M Payment Amount (millions)
    Alabama 921 13.96 $485.28
    Alaska 247 25.9 $182.16
    Arizona 2,745 28.69 $1,109.66
    Arkansas 819 20.69 $304.61
    California 15,707 30.96 $3,785.27
    Colorado 1,627 21.43 $619.60
    Connecticut 1,812 38.44 $1,162.59
    Delaware 342 25.83 $167.66
    District of Columbia 328 37.56 $171.79
    Florida 14,111 48.8 $4,263.84
    Georgia 3,694 26.04 $1,879.51
    Hawaii 426 22.75 $220.80
    Idaho 448 17.77 $193.73
    Illinois 5,062 30.95 $3,519.64
    Indiana 3,390 38.16 $973.27
    Iowa 974 23.41 $420.96
    Kansas 1,922 50.34 $438.43
    Kentucky 1,778 30.31 $634.83
    Louisiana 3,783 63.4 $951.12
    Maine 517 28.71 $286.53
    Maryland 3,353 41.84 $1,515.18
    Massachusetts 3,654 40.26 $2,498.85
    Michigan 4,473 34.29 $1,087.30
    Minnesota 817 10.99 $541.24
    Mississippi 1,014 26.53 $296.84
    Missouri 2,467 30.72 $988.05
    Montana 567 38.84 $181.43
    Nebraska 612 23.92 $213.42
    Nevada 1,097 26.55 $347.25
    New Hampshire 674 37.16 $369.99
    New Jersey 7,671 63.71 $3,661.80
    New Mexico 1,570 57.15 $580.59
    New York 20,162 78.82 $10,412.28
    North Carolina 2,011 14.46 $766.85
    North Dakota 138 13.62 $42.99
    Ohio 3,096 20.26 $1,304.97
    Oklahoma 1,988 38.04 $624.12
    Oregon 1,480 26.85 $734.98
    Pennsylvania 10,863 64.42 $5,147.96
    Rhode Island 689 48.46 $390.25
    South Carolina 2,061 30.01 $671.38
    South Dakota 242 20.46 $129.99
    Tennessee 1,891 20.63 $702.41
    Texas 7,303 18.71 $1,592.00
    Utah 1,152 26.21 $364.58
    Vermont 197 23.42 $77.20
    Virginia 2,160 19.13 $1,050.05
    Washington 2,480 24.5 $1,032.51
    West Virginia 1,500 65 $504.32
    Wisconsin 782 10.21 $363.71
    Wyoming 202 26.73 $81.95