A study entitled “Trends in Pediatric Malpractice Claims 1987–2015: Results From the Periodic Survey of Fellows” published in March 2020 in the journal Pediatrics found: “From 1987 to 2015, the proportion of pediatricians sued has decreased and median indemnity has remained unchanged. Male pediatricians and hospital-based subspecialists were more likely to have been sued.”
The journal article reported that in 2015, 21% of pediatricians reported ever having been the subject of any medical malpractice claim or lawsuit, which was a substantial decrease from the peak (33% in 1990). The article also reported that reports of successful outcomes in the most-recent medical malpractice lawsuits filed against pediatricians trended upward between 1987 and 2015, with the largest percentage of successful outcomes being reported as 58% in 2015. However, the median indemnity remained unchanged, averaging $128,000 in 2018 dollars. A greater risk of pediatricians being named in medical malpractice claims was associated with males, hospital-based subspecialty (neonatology, pediatric critical care, pediatric emergency medicine, and hospital medicine), longer career, and more work hours.
Pediatricians are less frequently sued for medical malpractice than other physicians but when medical malpractice lawsuits against pediatricians are successful, the payout is higher than for other medical specialties.
The journal article was based on an analysis of data from the Periodic Survey, which is a national random sample survey of American Academy of Pediatrics members. Seven of the Periodic Surveys between 1987 and 2015 asked questions regarding medical malpractice.
An article published in Pediatrics in June 2013 stated: “The annual percentage of pediatricians facing a malpractice claim was 3.1% (7.4% among other physicians, P < .001). Among 404 claims, 83 (20.5%) resulted in an indemnity payment and 15 (3.7%) resulted in a payment exceeding $1 million. Annual rates of indemnity were lower among pediatricians (0.5%) than other physicians (1.6%, P < .001), whereas rates of payments exceeding $1 million were similar (0.13% among pediatricians and 0.11% among other physicians, P = .57). The mean indemnity payment was $562 180 (SD $667 962). Cases with permanent injury (n = 172) had larger mean payments ($703 373) compared with fatalities ($559 102; n = 131) or temporary or psychological injuries ($127 663; n = 101), P < .05. The mean time to resolution was 23.4 months (SD 21.8 months)." "Malpractice claims involving children between 1 and 12 months were more likely to result in indemnity payment compared with claims involving children <1 month and children >1 year in unadjusted analyses … among claims involving children between 1 and 12 months, 21.5% resulted in indemnity payment, compared with 18.1% among children >1 year and 15.3% among children <1 month, although these differences were not statistically significant (P = .42). Claims involving a permanent injury were also more likely to result in indemnity payment (19.7%) compared with claims involving a fatality (16.8%) or temporary or psychological injury (13.3%) in unadjusted analyses (P = .41)." The article concluded: "Indemnity payments among pediatricians are infrequent but large, particularly in cases with permanent patient injury rather than death or temporary injury. The time required to resolve claims may be considered to be long." Source
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