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Medical malpractice claims are trending upwards in 2021

With all the stresses healthcare providers and hospitals have been under during the pandemic, it may not come as a complete surprise that medical malpractice claims are on the increase. The entire field of healthcare has been facing unprecedented levels of need during the pandemic, and at the same time, it has been hard to maintain staffing levels.

Last year, Aon and the American Society of Health Care Risk Management performed an actuarial analysis and predicted that the cost of hospital professional liability claims would increase by at least 3% this year. Moreover, they found that, while claim frequency was expected to be about the same, the loss rate was increasing. That indicates that more serious claims are being brought.

For hospitals, the projected cost of each claim is now $228,000, versus only $150,000 for employed physicians.

The actuaries considered data from 108 healthcare systems that had 183,281 occupied hospital beds – about 30% of the entire U.S. hospital industry. They found some interesting trends:

  • Claims related to alleged malpractice during labor and delivery were the most expensive. These claims accounted for 7.7% of all claims but 16% of the payouts.
  • The most frequent cause of professional liability claims was treatment issues, generally. These accounted for 41.1% of total claims but only 34.5% of the payouts.
  • Jury awards continued to make up only about 5% of claims paid, although the importance of these claims is underrated because they can be used to influence perceptions about the value of other claims.
  • Birth injuries made up 38 of the Top 100 malpractice verdicts in 2019. This was followed by surgical errors (24), diagnostic errors (18) and abuse (6).

The report also called for greater attention to abuse claims, generally. This is because such claims often yield large awards. Examples included:

  • 3 claims alleging abuse within a hospital setting
  • A $60 million award in a case involving alleged sexual abuse of a behavioral health patient
  • A $48 million verdict in Illinois and a $45 million verdict in New Jersey after claims that hospitals failed to detect signs of child abuse in the emergency room

Are you a healthcare provider or clinic facing a medical malpractice claim? The first step toward resolution is to get an experienced, effective malpractice defense attorney involved.