New data from the American Medical Association reveal that nearly one-third of physicians in the United States have been sued during their medical career.
The new analysis also indicates that there are several factors that contribute to a physician’s likelihood of being sued while practicing medicine, including age, medical specialty and gender.
Of physicians age 55 and older, nearly half (46.8%) have been sued at some point. In comparison, this was the case in just 9.5% of those under the age of 40.
Medical specialty also appears to play a large role in whether a patient will seek legal action against a provider. The report indicates that obstetricians/gynecologists (OB-GYNs), general surgeons, other surgeons and orthopedic surgeons are at the greatest risk of litigation, with 62.4%, 59.3%, 55.5% and 47.2% having already been sued at some point in their medical career. Allergists/immunologists and hematologists/oncologists recorded the lowest risk.
Men are also more likely to face lawsuits; Based on the report, men recorded 75 claims per 100 physicians, while women represented a significantly lower proportion at 42 claims per 100 female physicians. Just under 25% of women included in the analysis reported being sued compared to 36.8% of men.
While the report suggests that physicians—especially male surgeons over the age of 55—face serious risk of having a lawsuit filed against them, AMA President Jack Resneck Jr., MD, had some reassurance to offer providers.
“Even the most highly qualified and competent physicians in the U.S. may face a medical liability claim in their careers, however, getting sued is not indicative of medical errors,” Resneck said in a release. "When physicians are sued, two-thirds of civil liability claims are dropped, dismissed or withdrawn without a finding of fault. When claims proceed to trial and are decided by a verdict, the defendants prevail in nearly 9 out 10 cases.”
AMA’s Medical Liability Claim Frequency Among U.S. Physicians report can be viewed here.