For the period from January, 2008 to December, 2009, indemnity payments to medical malpractice claimants in Washington State totaled $208.3 million for 857 claims, an average of $243,079 per paid claim. One large payment affected these figures. If that payment is removed, total paid indemnity payments would be reduced to $194.0 million, and the average indemnity payment would drop to $226,599. Total paid indemnity, which is the product of average paid indemnity and the number of paid claims, declined by 6.8 percent on a year-to-year basis, while average paid indemnity rose 7.0 percent over the same period. Median paid indemnity was $50,000 for the entire period.
The total portion paid for economic losses was $98.6 million, with an average of $115,033 per paid claim (47.3 percent of the claim payments were attributable to economic losses).
$68.8 million was paid to defend 1,513 claims (an average of $46,163 per claim). 87.3 percent of all claims were closed with the payment of defense costs.
About 50 percent of the total claims involved litigation, for which defense costs were incurred in 98.2 percent of these claims (averaging $76,010). Lawsuits resulted in indemnity payments 46.3 percent of the time, averaging $415,202. For cases not involving litigation, defense costs were incurred 76.4 percent of the time, averaging $7,588. Claimants were compensated 52.7 percent of the time with an average indemnity payment of $91,006. 63.8 percent of the claims in which an indemnity payment was made were settled for less than $100,000 (the average indemnity payment was $27,504). 52 claims were settled for $1 million or more, which accounted for 48.8 percent of the total indemnity payments made (an average of $1.955 million per claim).
Claims resolved by verdicts in favor of the claimants were 16 out of 24 claims, which was 1.9 percent of the paid claims and 5.8 percent of the total of indemnity payments.
731 of the claims were settled — 47.1 percent before trial, arbitration, or mediation, and an additional 50.1 percent before the beginning of a hearing or trial. Alternative dispute resolution was used to settle 214 claims.
Incidents that occurred in the operating room resulted in the largest number of claims, followed closely by incidents that occurred in the provider’s office, both of which represented 50.0 percent of the claims. The largest number of claims (55.5%) were against physician specialists (most of these claims were against general and family practice physicians). Obstetrics and gynecology were high in the total number of claims and in average indemnity payments. Nursing claims accounted for 231 claims, which resulted in 145 indemnity payments (most common claims against nurses: failure to monitor, improper technique, and improper performance).
Of the 1,733 claims closed, 29.4 percent were for failure to diagnose or for improper performance. In 55.9 percent of the closed claims, the claimants were female. The average indemnity payment was higher for males than females ($301,458 compared to $200,564, even though the economic component was 47 percent for both males and females).
There were 73 claims involving a newborn or infant of which 22 (20.1 percent) resulted in an indemnity payment (the average indemnity payment was $607,996, with an average economic loss of $461,727).
49.5 percent of all closed claims resulted in an indemnity payment made to a claimant.
Source: 2009 Medical Malpractice Statistical Summary
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