On average, a medical malpractice claim is likely to lead to litigation, but most of those will be dismissed, or decided in favor of the physician, according to a new study.
The study was published by the Chicago-based American Medical Association in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The head researcher was Dr. Anupam B. Jena of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital.
The study focused on claim resolved between 2002 and 2005, and required defense costs to be incurred. About 55 percent of claims resulted in litigation, with some variation. Claims against obstetricians and gynecologists resulted in litigation about 63 percent of the time, while the number for anesthesiologists was 47 percent.
A slight majority of the cases studied were dismissed by the court, though the number varied by specialty. Internists and subspecialists had 33.3 percent of claims resolved prior to a verdict, while the number for pathologists was 49.6 percent.
According to the study, a claim culminated in a trial verdict 4.5percent of the time. The study also found that more than 75 percent of claims against specialists that go to trial are decided in favor of the physician. When a case was taken to the point of a verdict, the physician prevailed 79.6 percent of the time.
The study also looked at the length of time it takes to close a claim. The mean time was 19 months. Claims that were litigated tended to close after 25 months, while non-litigated claims closed in just under one year, on average.