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Most med-mal cases dismissed, AMA study finds

Almost 55 percent of all medical malpractice cases are dismissed and less than 5 percent make it to trial, according to a new study published by the American Medical Association.

Further, most of the cases that go to trial – 79.6 percent – “were judged in favor of the physician,” concludes the study, titled Outcomes of Medical Malpractice Litigation Against US Physicians.

The AMA’s Archives of Internal Medicine published the study online on May 14. It is based on an analysis of malpractice data from an undisclosed nationwide professional liability insurer.

The study examined all claims closed by the insurer between 2002 and 2005 that involved some defense costs.

According to the study, 55.2 percent of claims resulted in “litigation,” defined as conduct of a lawsuit beyond the filing stage. Outcomes of litigation varied across specialties, the study concludes.

Courts dismissed medical malpractice cases 54.1 percent of the time across all specialties. The study said that internists and medicine-based subspecialists enjoyed the highest rate of dismissal – 61.5 percent. Cases against pathologists had the lowest rate of dismissal at 36.5 percent.

The study found that only 4.5 percent of all cases generated a trial verdict, ranging from 2 percent for anesthesiologists to 7.4 percent for pathologists.

The study further examined the length of time that it takes to resolve medical malpractice claims, finding that the mean time required to close a malpractice claim was 19 months.

Not surprisingly, claims that went to trial took the longest to resolve, with a mean of 39 months and an average of 43.5 months.

The lead author of the study was Dr. Anupam Jena of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.


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