The short answer is: much more common than the average person is aware. A 2011 study conducted by Harvard Medical School, funded by the RAND Institute for Civil Justice and the National Institute on Aging, and reported in the New England Journal of Medicine delivered a snapshot of Malpractice in America*.
Consider this statistic: by the age of 65, 75% of physicians in low-risk specialties (e.g. family medicine; dermatology) had faced malpractice claims compared to 99% of physicians in high-risk specialties (e.g. neurosurgery; thoracic-cardiovascular surgery).
Twenty-two percent of claims resulted in settlements with plaintiffs. Mean indemnity payments made to plaintiffs ranged from $117,832 for dermatology to $520,923 for pediatrics.
The study was geared at evaluating physicians’ risks of malpractice lawsuits â€“ and does not make any assessment of the legal representation of successful plaintiffs. However, to prove medical malpractice is difficult. The effort requires specialized expertise to establish:
- Accepted standards of medical practice were either not followed or violated;
- That the injury or illness suffered by the patient were caused by the medical professional’s negligence; and
- That the behavior of the medical professional caused measurable harm or damage.
To build a strong case, you should contact MKK as soon as you feel that you or a loved one has experienced physician malpractice. If possible, disengage from further services from that medical professional and get copies of all of you records. Share the chronology of events with us and we can evaluate the strength of your claim and discuss the details that may require further investigation.
Note: You should be prepared for a long engagement with your attorney â€“ medical malpractice cases can take 1-3 years to be resolved â€“ so choose wisely.
*Source: Malpractice Risk According to Physician, N Engl J Med 2011;365:629-36, http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMsa1012370