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Small Percentage of Doctors Responsible for Majority of Malpractice Claims

March 29, 2016  ·  By HM&M

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When people read the stories about medical mistakes and the resulting malpractice claims, they often begin to wonder if their own physician might be capable or responsible enough to care for them in a life or death situation. Many also begin to fear the idea of going to an unknown doctor. However, studies suggest that, while the vetting of a physician is certainly warranted and necessary, most patients are probably relatively safe; it is just a small portion of physicians that patients should be wary of.

One Percent of Doctors Linked to One-Third of All Malpractice Claims

Although they may not provide a complete and definitive guideline on just how many (or which) doctors are making the most mistakes, malpractice cases do give quite a bit of insight. As such, researchers at Stanford examined the information on more than 66,000 paid malpractice claims paid against 54,000 physicians nationwide between 2005 and 2014. Nearly one-third of those claims could be linked to just one percent of all doctors.

Negligent Doctor “Profile”

For patients wishing to determine which physicians to avoid, the Stamford researchers developed a sort of “profile” on those that are most likely to be negligent or needlessly endanger patients. Characteristics of those determined at highest risk in the study included doctors who were:

  • Male (accounted for 82 percent);
  • Older, rather than younger;
  • Doctors of internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, general surgery, or general practice/family medicine; and
  • Found to have had a previously paid claim.

Moreover, the presence of additional claims increased the risk of further claims. For example, those with three claims were three times more likely to have another incident than those who had just one claim. Depending on the circumstances, patients may be able to access their doctor’s history of claims by looking them up on the state’s medical licensing board. Unfortunately, this information is often limited or hidden from public record.

Advocates Seeking Improvements for Patients

In the state of California, advocates are pushing to have legislation that would require doctors to inform their patients if they have been placed on probation. So far, the medical board has resisted the idea, but the Consumer’s Union’s Safe Patient Project is refusing to back down. We can only hope that such measures are eventually passed and then implemented in other states.

We stand behind measures that help to protect patients, and when physicians fail to provide competent, comprehensive care, we are there to assist the victims. Schedule your free initial consultation with a skilled and experienced Chicago medical malpractice attorney to find out how we can help with your case.


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