A Comprehensive Look at Medical Malpractice Statistics


A Comprehensive Look at Medical Malpractice Statistics

Finding reputable data on medical malpractice claims in the United States online can often be difficult, with false statistics and questionable numbers with no verifiable source littering the Internet and repeated ad nauseam by other websites.

This comprehensive list aims to be the definitive resource for facts, figures, statistics, and procedures regarding medical malpractice claims in the United States. It includes information sourced from peer-reviewed studies, physician surveys, and information retrieved from the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), an exhaustive government database of all medical malpractice reports and payments in the United States.


Basic Medical Malpractice Statistics


How much is the average medical malpractice settlement?

According to NPDB data, the average payout for a medical malpractice claim from 2009-2018 was approximately $309,908.

How many cases of medical malpractice are there?

There have been, on average, 12,414 cases of medical malpractice reported to the NPDB annually for the past decade (2009-2018).

How many people are killed by medical mistakes?

According to a study by Johns Hopkins University, more than 250,000 people in the U.S. die every year from medical errors and negligence. This makes medical malpractice the third-leading cause of death in the United States.


This makes medical malpractice the
third-leading cause of death in the United States.

How common are medical malpractice suits among medical professionals?

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, 99 percent of physicians face at least one lawsuit by age 65.

According to data from the Rand Corporation, the average physician spends over ten percent of his or her career dealing with litigation.

How long does a medical malpractice lawsuit take?

The time spent on a medical malpractice suit may vary. A 2006 study by the New England Journal of Medicine found that the average time for a medical malpractice suit took five years, from the moment of the injury/damage to the closing of the case.

However, a 2017 Medscape survey of physicians indicates that the majority of medical malpractice lawsuits took 1 to 2 years.

An In-Depth Look at Npdb Data


What state had the most reports of medical malpractice?

According to NPDB data, New York had the largest amount of medical malpractice reports from 2009-2018, with 16,688 – followed by California and Florida, with 13,157 and 10,788 reports, respectively.

North Dakota only had 126 total reports of medical malpractice – the lowest by far within the continental United States.

What state had the highest total amount of medical malpractice payouts?

According to NPDB data, the state of New York had the highest total medical malpractice payments, totaling $7.025 billion – followed by Pennsylvania, with $3.416 billion. North Dakota had the lowest amount of medical malpractice payments, totaling just $28.35 million.

Medical Malpractice Payments by State state-payments

According to NPDB data, the state of New York had
the highest total medical malpractice payments,
totaling $7.025 billion – followed by Pennsylvania,
with $3.416 billion.

Have medical malpractice reports increased or decreased in recent years?

From 2009-2018, the number of medical malpractice reports has decreased from
14,017 to 11,429 – an 18.5% decrease.

Total Medical Malpractice Reports by Year

How much has been paid out to medical malpractice victims in recent years?

Since 2009, a total of $38.5 billion has been paid out to victims of medical malpractice.

Have total medical malpractice payment amounts increased or
decreased in recent years?

Yearly payment totals have been largely inconsistent. The lowest total amount of
medical malpractice payments occurred in 2010, with approximately $3.67 billion
paid out to medical malpractice victims. The total amount peaked in 2015,
when victims collectively received $4.01 billion in damages.

Total US Medical Malpractice Payments By Year

Which medical professionals receive the most medical malpractice reports?

The overwhelming majority of medical malpractice reports are against medical doctors, with
over 85,000 reports from 2009-2018. By contrast, the next ranking profession is dentists, with
14,510 reports.

Total US Medical Malpractice Reports by Practitioner Type

What are some of the largest medical malpractice payouts in US history?

$216.7 million – awarded to Allan Navarro by a Florida jury in 2006 for a misdiagnosis of stroke symptoms

$190 million – awarded to 8,000 plaintiffs by Johns Hopkins Hospital in 2014 on behalf of Dr. Nikita Levy, a gynecologist who had been secretly taking photos and recording videos of his patients.

$172 million – awarded to Tiffany Applegate by a Bronx Jury in 2014 for improper care and advice by paramedics, leading to severe brain damage and paralysis.

Medscape Survey Findings


A 2017 survey of more than 4000 physicians gave insight into some
interesting questions from the perspective of the medical industry.

  • 58% of physicians who were sued stated they were “very surprised” by the lawsuit.
  • 89% of physicians who were named in a malpractice suit believed that the suit was unwarranted.
  • 49% of physicians surveyed stated they were named in 2-5 lawsuits.
  • 49% of physicians said that there was no event that sparked the lawsuit or would have alerted them to expect a suit.
  • 33% spent more than 40 hours on their suit defense.
  • 62% of respondents thought that the overall outcome of a suit was fair for both parties.
  • 33% of physicians feel that the lawsuit negatively affected their overall medical career.

Medical Malpractice Laws


Do I have to pay taxes on a medical malpractice settlement?

According to the IRS, no:

“If you receive a settlement for personal physical injuries or physical sickness and did not take anitemized deduction for medical expenses related to the injury or sickness in prior years, the full amount is non-taxable. Do not include the settlement proceeds in your income.

The proceeds you receive for emotional distress or mental anguish originating from a personal physical injury or physical sickness are treated the same as proceeds received for Personal physical injuries or physical sickness above.”

What is the statute of limitations on medical malpractice?

The statute of limitations on medical malpractice cases generally varies by state, and may include two separate deadlines:

The standard deadline to file a claim starts from the moment the malpractice actually occurred.

However, most states have a discovery exception deadline, in which the time limit starts when the patient discovers the malpractice – or reasonably should have discovered the malpractice.

What elements are required to prove negligence in a medical malpractice case?

  • Duty. The defendant had a duty to abide by the standard of care – a doctor-patient relationship, in other words.
  • Breach of Duty. The defendant failed to abide by this duty of care.
  • Causation. The failure of this duty caused harm or damages.
  • Damages. This harm caused damages – physical, financial, psychological, etc.

How much compensation can I recover in a medical malpractice case?

The amount of your compensation may depend on the severity of your injuries, the length of time you are incapacitated from the injury, and the lasting effects of the incident on your life moving forward. However, there are also state laws in place across the United States that may limit the compensation you receive in a medical malpractice case – otherwise known as a cap on damages.

Which states have caps on compensatory damages in medical malpractice cases?

Six states have caps on total damages in medical malpractice cases – this includes both economic & non-economic damages:

  • Colorado
  • Indiana
  • Louisiana
  • Nebraska
  • New Mexico
  • Virginia

24 states have caps on non-economic damages:

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Hawaii
  • Iowa
  • Idaho
  • Massachusetts
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Missouri
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Nevada
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin

20 states have no caps on damages:

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Connecticut
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Minnesota
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Washington

Interestingly, Colorado is the only state in the country with caps on both total damages and non-economic damages. It claims a $1 million “umbrella” cap, while also enforcing a $300,000 limit on non-economic damages.

Closing Thoughts

Despite the high figures regarding medical malpractice cases and payments, it is important to note that these statistics may not necessarily reflect the actual number of medical malpractice incidents in the country every year.

Some argue that medical malpractice is widely underreported in the country. Issues such as misdiagnosis and failure to diagnose often are not fully disclosed to patients – so when complications arise, it may be difficult to find any seeming negligent acts by medical professionals.

Additionally, the NPDB only reports on the quantity of medical malpractice payouts – not on actual instances of medical malpractice. Many cases are often denied or dismissed due to extenuating circumstances – despite legitimate grounds for negligence.

As a result, deaths and injuries stemming from medical malpractice incidents may be far higher than the data suggests – and is something that certainly warrants further investigation.