What is the medical malpractice death rate and other medical malpractice statistics?

Question

What is the medical malpractice death rate and some of the latest medical malpractice statistics?

Answer

It’s not easy to get hard data when it comes to the number of patients who die each year because of a preventable medical error or actionable medical malpractice. The numbers in recent years have hovered somewhere between 150,000 to 200,000 cases of fatal medical errors, although sources vary. The federal government and some of the other reliable compilers of this kind of information tend to sidestep any controversy by lumping medical errors in with “accidents” when it comes to causes of death. (Learn more about medical malpractice and wrongful death.)    

It’s easier to get a sense of recent statistics that indicate trends in medical malpractice cases. If you’re thinking about filing a medical malpractice lawsuit, here are a few numbers to consider:

What are the characteristics of med mal plaintiffs? According to a 2006 study, the majority of medical malpractice plaintiffs were    female  (60%), with a median age of  38 years old.  About one-fifth were newborns, and approximately 12% were over 65.

Who is being sued for medical malpractice? That same 2006 study found that obstetrician-gynecologists (OBGYNs)  were the defendants in 19% of medical malpractice cases, with the next most common defendants being  general surgeons  (17%) and  primary care physicians  (16%).  

How much are medical malpractice cases worth? A recent Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) examination of medical malpractice damages award (via settlements or jury verdicts) found that the average compensation for medical malpractice that occurred in the  inpatient setting  was around  $363,000, while the average award for healthcare mistakes in the  outpatient setting  was about $290,000.

What errors are prompting medical malpractice lawsuits? That same JAMA study found that, for inpatient incidents,  surgery errors  accounted for about 34% of medical malpractice claims, checking in as the most common basis for a claim. On the outpatient side,  errors in diagnosis  made up about 46% of all medical malpractice claims.

by:  , J.D.

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