Diederich Healthcare has put together a summary of all the medical malpractice payments that were made in 2012. The insurance company found that there were over 12,000 judgements against doctors totaling $3.6 billion that year.
New York was the worst state to be a doctor and the best state to be a medical malpractice lawyer. It led the pack with over $763 million of payouts during the year. This was followed by Pennsylvania, California, New Jersey, and Florida. If calculated on a per capita basis, New York again came out on top, with $38.99 worth of payments per person in the state, with second place Pennsylvania only reaching $24.77. California, with its huge population, doesn't even make it into the top ten per capita. If you want to feel secure from lawsuits as a doctor, head on down to Texas. There the ambulance chasers were only able to get $3.03 per person, followed by North Dakota and Wisconsin.
As for the types of injuries that resulted in judgements against doctors, 31% were due to death of the patient. This is followed by significant permanent injury with 19% and major permanent injury with 18%. Interestingly 0.4% of the money went for insignificant injuries. While that may sound like a very small percentage, it still amounted to over $14 million for something that is considered insignificant.
The most common cause for losing a medical malpractice case was due to diagnosis related errors with 34% of all payouts and specifically with failure to diagnose leading to 20% of the payouts. Surgery related errors led to 24% of the payments followed by treatment related errors with 18%. Anesthesia related payouts appear way down at the bottom of the list, with only 3%.
It looks like anesthesiology's pursuit of patient safety is paying off. We are on the forefront of ensuring that the latest technologies and practices will help patients get through their hospitalizations without adverse incidents. No longer will our specialty be defined by exorbitant malpractice insurance premiums as it was back in the 1980's and 1990's. But that doesn't mean we can rest on our laurels. As we continue to research and implement new safety techniques, we will strive to reach the goal of having zero anesthesia related complications in the future.