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Which Doctors are Sued Most Often and Why?

January 20, 2023

Doctors are sued by patients for malpractice for a number of reasons, and the American Medical Association (AMA) says that one in three physicians has been sued. More than one in three physicians—34%— have had a medical liability lawsuit filed against them at some point in their careers, according to the AMA’s Division of Economic and Health Policy Research.

And by age 55, it’s up to one in two.

What are the Primary Reasons Doctors are Sued?

The top reason why doctors are sued for malpractice is due to a failure to diagnose or a delayed diagnosis. These types of claims make up about a third (31%) of all cases. The second most frequent reason for a medical malpractice claim is complications from treatment and/or surgery result (29%). Next is poor outcomes and disease progression result in about a quarter of the cases (26%).

Failure to treat and/or delayed treatment are 16% of all cases, and wrongful death accounts for 13% of the cases.

Other reasons less likely to result in a medical malpractice case include errors in medication, poor documentation, and questions of informed consent.

Which Types of Doctors are Likely to be Sued?

The specialists most likely to be sued are both general and specialized surgeons. General surgeons and plastic surgeons were first on the list with 83% reporting having been sued at least once in their careers. Here are the next specialties on the list:

  • Orthopedics (81%);
  • Urology (80%);
  • OB/GYN (79%);
  • Other specialized surgeons (74%);
  • ER doctors (70%);
  • ENT’s (68%);
  • Radiology (64%); and
  • Cardiology (58%).

Which States See the Most Medical Malpractice Lawsuits?

The doctor’s practice location also has a significant effect on the likelihood of a doctor being sued for malpractice. However, the number of medical negligence lawsuits in any state hinges on a number of variables, such as the extent of tort reform, the litigation culture, the number of physicians practicing in the state, and patient demographics. Research shows that these are the top 10 states for lawsuits:

  1. Indiana;
  2. New York;
  3. Pennsylvania;
  4. Illinois;
  5. New Jersey;
  6. South Carolina;
  7. Louisiana;
  8. Tennessee;
  9. North Carolina; and
  10. Maryland.

Does the Age and Gender of the Doctor Factor in These Statistics?

The age of a healthcare provider does have an effect on the rate of malpractice claims. Research by a large malpractice insurance carriers showed that the claims rate for physicians age 25-34 was 2.0; the rate for providers age 35-44 was 3.6; the rate for providers age 45-54 was 3.3; age 55-64 was 3.2; and age 65 and up was 2.3.

Surgeons who were between 35-44 had the highest claim rate overall with 12.2 claims per 100 physicians.

Finally, male doctors are more than twice as likely to be sued for medical malpractice than female doctors. Moreover, this research shows that the gap hasn’t changed over the last 15 years, even with an increased presence of women in the medical field.

Contact a Michigan Medical Negligence Attorney

If you or someone you know has recently suffered an injury that may be medical negligence resulting in injury or death, speak with an experienced and knowledgeable medical negligence attorney immediately to protect your interests or those of your loved one.

Buchanan Firm has medical professionals who are available to immediately investigate your claim to determine if the deviation was caused by medical negligence.

Our firm proudly serves people all across Michigan, including major cities like Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Detroit, Lansing, Holland, St. Joe, and Ann Arbor, and rural towns such as Lowell, Ada, Fremont, Newaygo, Grand Haven, Rockford, and Cedar Springs. We will meet you after hours, at home or in the hospital to accommodate you.