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Public Citizen Report Highlights Decrease in Medical Malpractice Payouts

by on November 18, 2014

Although medical malpractice payouts experienced a slight increase in 2013, payments as a whole appear to be rapidly decreasing. A recent report from consumer advocate group, Public Citizen, suggests that while the number of medical malpractice cases has not decreased. In fact, the report from the group notes “the actual crisis over avoidable medical errors is worse than we ever knew.”

The group mentioned the presence of a slight increase in malpractice payments ─ the first in a decade ─ but noted the sharp decline in the number and value of claims over the past 15 years. Public Citizen cites medical practitioners as the reason for the decrease in payments, as they have been “feverishly advocating” for caps on medical malpractice payouts since the turn of the century.

“Despite rhetoric about ‘frivolous lawsuits,’ the vast majority of medical malpractice payments compensate for injuries that no one would deem frivolous,” the report noted.

Medical payouts on the decline

An overwhelming three-fifths of payouts during 2013 were caused by medical malpractice that resulted in “significant permanent injury, major permanent injury, quadriplegia, brain damage, the need for lifelong care, or death.”

According to the federal government’s National Practitioner Data Bank, the total number of medical malpractice payments increased from 9,370 in 2012 to 9,677 in 2013 ─ a sharp decline from the 16,565 payments reported in 2001.

While the value of payments rose slightly to $3.3 billion in 2013, from $3.1 billion in 2012, the report noted that the value is actually negative when converted to actual and inflation-adjusted dollars. In comparison, the total value of medical malpractice payments based on inflation-adjusted daughters was $3.6 billion in 1991 and $5.8 billion in 2001.

It is important to note that the percentage of medical malpractice payments made on behalf of hospitals, rather than physicians, was not included in the NPDB data.

AMA disagrees with report

A representative from the American Medical Association questioned the validity of the study, due to the fact that it was based on statistics from the NPDB.

“The Government Accountability Office has determined that the NPDB is riddled with duplicate entries, inaccurate data, and incomplete and inappropriate information,” said the spokesperson, in an email to MedPage Today.

Additionally, the AMA spokesperson claims the report and the NPDB statistics failed to omit the 65 percent of cases that are withdraw, dismissed or dropped. The AMA spokesperson used data from the Physicians Insurers Association of America to support their claim that the cost of dropped claims totals 38 percent of all defense costs.

Less than 10% of medical liability claims were decided by a trial verdict, and the vast majority of them — 89% — were won by the physician defendant in the case,” stated the spokesperson.

Assitance filing a Phoenix medical malpractice lawsuit

As a patient, you trust your doctors to provide you with the highest level of care, but unfortunately some medical professionals fail in this capacity, resulting in serious personal injury or wrongful death. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury as a result of medical malpractice, you may be entitled to compensation for your pain and suffering and to cover the economic losses you’ve incurred.

The Arizona medical malpractice lawyers at Wattel and York are dedicated to fighting for the rights of innocent victims, just like you. Call 1-877-225-5562 today for a complimentary case review, to determine whether you have grounds for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in Phoenix.


  1. MedPageToday, Public Citizen Decries Fall in Malpractice Awards
  2. Public Citizen, Medical Malpractice Payments Remained at Historic Low in 2013 Despite Slight Uptick

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