2005 Med Mal Study

On Thursday, March 10, 2005, the Center on Lawyers, Civil Justice, and the Media at the University of Texas School of Law formally released “Stability, Not Crisis: Medical Malpractice Claim Outcomes In Texas, 1988-2002.” Using a unique, comprehensive dataset maintained by the Texas Department of Insurance that contains closed medical malpractice claims for 1988-2002, the study finds that claim rates, payments, total costs, and jury verdicts were stable. The major findings, which reflect adjustments for general inflation and/or rising health care consumption, are as follows:

  • The number of large paid claims (>$25,000 in 1988 dollars) per year was roughly constant. The number of small paid claims (<$25,000 in 1988 dollars) declined sharply.
  • Mean and median payouts per large paid claim were $528,000 and $200,000, respectively, in 2002 and were roughly constant over time.
  • Roughly 5% of paid claims involved payments over $1 million, with little annual variation.
  • In 2000-2002, there was an average of 4.6 paid claims per 100 practicing Texas physicians per year, down from 6.4 paid claims per 100 practicing physicians per year in 1990-1992.
  • The total number of closed claim files averaged 25 per 100 practicing Texas physicians per year in 2000-2002. Of these, about 80% involved no payout.
  • In 2002, payouts to patients were about $515 million and Texas health care spending was about $93 billion, meaning that malpractice payouts equaled 0.6% of health care spending.
  • Mean and median jury verdicts in trials won by patients were $889,951 and $300,593, respectively, in 2002 and showed no significant upward or downward trend.
  • The sum of payouts and defense cost rose by about 1% per year.  Defense costs, which grew 4.4% annually, drove this increase.

Because tort outcomes were stable, the study concludes other forces must account for the steep med mal premium increases observed after 1998, most likely dynamics operating in insurance markets.

Stability, Not Crisis: Medical Malpractice Claim Outcomes In Texas , 1988-2002” will appear in the July, 2005 issue of the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, a peer-reviewed journal. Click here to download a copy now.

For additional information visit the Center on Lawyers, Civil Justice, and the Media

The study's authors are Professors Bernard Black and Charles Silver (University of Texas); Dr. David Hyman (University of Illinois); and Dr. William Sage(Professor of Law at Columbia University and principal investigator for the Pew Project on Medical Liability). Its sponsors are the Center on Lawyers, Civil Justice, and the Media at University of Texas School of Law, and the Jon David and Elizabeth Epstein Program in Health Law and Policy at the University of Illinois College of Law.

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