How Often Do New MDs Face Malpractice Charges?

by tylercook on November 15, 2013

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As a new medical doctor, even hearing the word ‘malpractice’ can incite terror and images of lawsuits, infamy, and losing a license forever. But while this fear may seem real, many young medical professionals don’t realize the true frequency of malpractice cases. In fact, though the rate of claims may sometimes rise, it is more common for plaintiffs to abandon their case, giving hope to those just emerging in this difficult field.

Frequency of Medical Malpractice Suits

The frequency of medical malpractice can be estimated, but will never be calculated accurately, for many reasons. By definition, a patient who sought multiple opinions on a specific issue could claim malpractice amongst the ones that seemed disagreeable, making a precise estimate impossible.

The number of medical malpractice suits though, is calculable, with numbers ranging from 15,000 to 19,000 each year. Additionally, it is believed that nearly 195,000 people die every year due from an error committed by a medical professional, although according to the relative numbers, most of these instances are never brought inside of a courtroom.

Professional Specialty Rates

Of course, while these numbers and statistics show that medical malpractice can and does happen, they fail to link error to certain specifications, instead creating an overarching image for doctors as a whole.

In actuality though, a doctor’s field matters entirely, with some fields having much higher rates of malpractice than others. For example, one study found that 19.1 percent of neurosurgeons faced a malpractice suit in a given year, as well as 18.9 percent of thoracic-cardiovascular surgeons, and 15.3 percent of general surgeons.

That same study showed that only 5.2 of family medicine doctors, 3.1 percent of pediatricians, and 2.6 percent of psychiatrists were faced with similar suits, suggesting that the possibility that a physician’s encounters a malpractice suit largely depends on their field of specification. That same study claims that 7.4 percent of all physicians faced such a claim.

Aftermath of the Claims

With medical malpractice rates and statistics so high, it is only natural that young medical professionals are terrified of the possibility of facing a claim. According to reports though, this fear may not be entirely justified, as the previous study showed that 78 percent of all of these malpractice claims didn’t result in any payouts to the plaintiff.

Furthermore, while some believe that most beginning physicians will face a medical malpractice suit at some point in their lives, only one quarter of these cases will ever result in compensation being given out to the claimant. These results should ease anxiety for those emerging in the medical field, showing that allegations are much more common than convictions.

The Truth About Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice, a term commonly thrown around by the media across the country, is feared by physicians and patients alike. But while instances of physician misconduct may be unfortunate, the statistics show that new doctors can rest assured, knowing that they probably will not be successfully sued for malpractice.


In addition to Medical Malpractice, Kerry Worthington writes on other complex legal topics such as Intellectual Property, Criminal Procedure, Civil Procedure, Patent Law and other topics as well.




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