Many Doctors Who Face Malpractice Suits Are Serial Offenders

A tiny fraction of doctors are responsible for a surprising number of malpractice claim settlements, according to new research published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Just one percent of doctors were linked to 32 percent of malpractice settlements paid out between 2005 to 2014, according to anonymized data collected from the U.S. National Practitioner Data Bank, which tracks nationwide information on all practicing physicians’ malpractice suits and their settlements.

What’s more, the greater the number of claims a doctor settled, the chances they’d pay out another one in the future were exponential. Doctors who settled two malpractice suits had about twice the risk of being involved in a third settlement when compared to those with just one settlement. And doctors with three paid malpractice settlements were three times more likely to be accused of malpractice and pay out again.

The highest risk doctors — those with six or more paid settlement claims — had more than 12 times the risk of a recurring settlement payment.

While the study’s findings are meant as a wake-up call for hospitals and liability insurers, they are also an important reminder to patients that a minority of doctors may still be practicing despite disturbing track records.

Who is most likely to face malpractice

Certain kinds of doctors are more likely to be involved in recurring malpractice settlements. Neurosurgeons, orthopedic surgeons, general surgeons, plastic surgeons and OB/GYNs were about twice as likely to have repeat malpractice settlements compared to internal medicine doctors, even after the researchers controlled for the inherent risk of things like surgery.

Male doctors were also 40 percent more likely to have a recurring settlement compared to their female colleagues, while physicians younger than 35 only had about one-third the risk of recurrence compared to older ones. As these young physicians grew older, —> Read More