There are an average of 95 medical liability claims filed for every 100 physicians, an American Medical Association study  finds.

The study, "Medical Liability Claim Frequency: A 2007-2008 Snapshot of Physicians," notes that nearly 61% of physicians age 55 and over have been sued. Yet, the report notes a wide variation in the impact of liability claims between specialties. For example, the number of claims per 100 physicians was more than five times greater for general surgeons and obstetricians/gynecologists than it was for pediatricians and psychiatrists.

The report also noted a gender disparity, with twice as many male doctors having been sued, 47.5%, compared to 23.9% of female doctors. Yet, there are other demographic factors that contribute to this difference, including the fact men physicians are concentrated in the specialties with the highest levels of claim incidence, and women in those with the lowest levels.

What’s more the report points out that claim frequency should not be used as an estimate of the error rate or malpractice rate in medicine and that the physician prevails 90% of the time in cases that go to trial.

"Even though the vast majority of claims are dropped or decided in favor of physicians, the understandable fear of meritless lawsuits can influence what specialty of medicine physicians practice, where they practice and when they retire," says AMA Immediate Past-President J. James Rohack, M.D. "This litigious climate hurts patients' access to physician care at a time when the nation is working to reduce unnecessary health care costs."

 

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