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A recent study conducted by Medscape evaluated more than 4,000 physicians and has found that medical malpractice lawsuits have been filed against more than half (55%) of physicians in the United States, with nearly half (49%) of the physicians sued more than once. Among all physicians, the top reasons for the lawsuit were failure to diagnose/delayed diagnosis (31%), complications from treatment/surgery (27%), and poor outcome/disease progression (24%). These numbers varied from a similar survey conducted in 2015 which indicated that 31% of lawsuits were a result of the patient suffering an abnormal injury. That number dropped significantly to 9% of lawsuits in 2017.
According to the 2017 study, Surgeons and Obstetricians/Gynecologists often are the specialists that tend to be sued most, at 85% each. These numbers appear consistent with a similar survey performed in 2015. It was also reported in the 2017 survey that primary care physicians, surgeons, and ob/gyns were often named in two or more lawsuits. These medical malpractice suits can be unexpected for physicians. According to Medscape, over half (58%) of physicians sued categorized their reaction as “very surprised” by the lawsuit.
Although the majority of all lawsuits are settled or dismissed prior to trial, more than three-fourths (79%) of all lawsuits took more than one year to conclude, one-third of all physicians sued spent more than forty hours defending their case, and more than three-fourths (81%) of physicians were required to sit for a deposition during the pendency of their case. Nearly one-fourth (22%) of physicians sued stated that, in hindsight, they would have improved documentation in the patient’s chart, and more than half (53%) of physicians believe that they can discourage future lawsuits by enhancing communication with their patients.
Attorney Graig Schultz is a litigator in Gross McGinley’s Medical Malpractice Defense Group, representing hospitals, health networks, physician groups, and individual medical professionals in lawsuits pertaining to medical care and supposed negligence.