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October 4, 2011

Malpractice Risk Study: AAJ calls for clarification of data results

A New England Journal of Medicine study that found the majority of medical malpractice claims are not rewarded compensation is receiving criticism from the American Association for Justice (AAJ) because the study lacks clarity. The study published last month compared the proportion of doctors who face malpractice claims with the size of those claims to determine malpractice risk.

The AAJ, however, felt the need to clarify certain results. According to the AAJ, the publication uses the words "sued" and "claim" interchangeably, which is erroneous as the study only references claims filed with one insurance company and not the lawsuits filed in court.

"Hundreds of thousands of Americans are injured by medical negligence every year and as previous research has shown, the majority of malpractice claims are meritorious. What this new study tells us is that the supposed wave of malpractice payments is actually a myth that has been built up by the scare tactics of insurance companies and tort reform groups. In reality, not enough is being done to protect patients and ensure justice," said AAJ President Gary Paul.

The study found that, during the study period, an estimated 7.4 percent of all doctors faced a malpractice claim. Of those claims, 1.6 percent led to financial compensation for the patient. The research ultimately concluded that 78 percent of patients who file malpractice claims do not receive damages.

The study says this data reiterates two central themes:

  • Insurance companies tend to deny more medical practice claims than they pay
  • Physicians' perceptions of medical malpractice claims do not coincide with actual risk

Read the full study published by the New England Journal of Medicine on malpractice risk.