Find out where medical malpractice payments were the most common in 2022
In this article, we explore the concept of medical malpractice, the inner workings of the National Practitioner Data Bank, and, most importantly, we’ll identify and analyze the states with the highest (and lowest) rates of medical malpractice payments in the United States.
Medical malpractice claims first appeared in the United States in the 1800s, but the frequency of claims did not increase significantly until the 1960s. Today, medical malpractice claims are common. According to research conducted by the Division of Economic and Health Policy Research, one in three physicians have had a medical malpractice lawsuit filed against them at some point in their careers.
In an effort to better understand the geographical distribution of medical malpractice claims, we’ve turned to a valuable resource: the National Practitioner Data Bank.
What is medical malpractice?
Medical malpractice occurs when a patient is harmed because a health care professional deviates from the accepted standard of care.
A medical malpractice claim can be brought against any licensed health care professional.
Examples of actions (or inactions) that commonly result in medical malpractice claims include:
- Failing to diagnose an illness
- Misdiagnosing an illness
- Misreading a lab result
- Prescribing and improper medication or dosage
- Failing to follow proper medical procedure
- Failing to warn a patient of known risks
- Prematurely discharging a patient
In order to establish a medical malpractice claim in most states, a patient must prove the following two elements:
- The health care provider failed to exercise the degree of care and skill expected of a reasonable health care provider in the profession, and
- Such failure was the actual and proximate cause of the patient’s injury.
In a medical malpractice case, the focus of the lawsuit will generally be on what the health care provider should have done in a specific set of circumstances. The standard by which the health care professional is judged is called the “medical standard of care.”
To put it another way, the plaintiff will attempt to persuade the judge or jury that the health care professional failed to act with the same level of care that an ordinary health care professional with the same training and experience would have, and the defendant will attempt to persuade the judge that the health care professional acted competently. Both sides can—and are typically required to—present testimony from experts to support their arguments.
What is the National Practitioner Data Bank?
The National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) is a federal database that collects certain information related to doctors and other health care practitioners. The NPDB was created pursuant to The Health Care Quality Improvement Act of 1986 with the goal of improving the quality of healthcare in the United States.
The NPDB collects a wide range of information concerning medical malpractice claims, including medical malpractice payments, disciplinary actions taken by state medical boards, and criminal convictions related to health care delivery.
Researchers, policymakers, and health care institutions use this information for all sorts of reasons, including to aid in the development of health care policies and to provide hospitals with critical information during credentialing and hiring processes.
The ten states with the most medical malpractice payments
To determine which states had the most medical malpractice payments in 2022 while controlling for population, we calculated the malpractice payment rate per capita for each state.
This was done by dividing the total number of medical malpractice payments in each state in 2022 by the total population of each state. We then multiplied the number by 100,000, which gave us the number of medical malpractice payments per one hundred thousand people.
|States with the most medical malpractice payments |
|State||Payments per 100,000 people|
The ten states with the fewest medical malpractice payments
To determine which states had the fewest medical malpractice payments in 2022, we once again calculated the malpractice payment rate per capita for each state and multiplied the number by 100,000 to get the number of medical malpractice payments per one hundred thousand people.
|States with the fewest medical malpractice payments (2022)|
|State||Payments per 100,000 people|
Factors that may impact the number of medical malpractice payments
Medical malpractice payments occur for a variety of reasons. It’s important to keep in mind that a high number of claims in a state does not necessarily indicate a lower standard of health care.
Some states, for example, have laws that make it easier for patients to file medical malpractice claims, which likely contributes to a higher payment rate. These laws may include:
- A longer statute of limitations
- Lower damage caps on medical malpractice claims
- More lenient peer-physician affidavit requirements
- Fewer limits on discovery
In the United States, medical malpractice law is typically under the authority of the individual states, as opposed to the federal government. Therefore, the rules that govern medical malpractice claims vary from state to state and have been established largely through decisions of lawsuits filed in state courts.
What’s more, some states have higher concentrations of medical practitioners. In these states, the number of malpractice payments could be greater due to the sheer number of patients receiving treatment, even if the percentage of negligent cases is not necessarily higher.
Similarly, some states may have more doctors who specialize in areas that see a higher number of malpractice claims. According to the American Medical Association, the following physician specialties are more likely to face malpractice claims:
- Obstetrics and Gynecology
- General surgery
- Orthopedic surgery
- Emergency medicine
Looking at the geographical distribution of medical malpractice payments can be revealing, but the data should be viewed as one piece of a much larger, more complex puzzle.
To learn more about medical malpractice in the United States, consider the following articles:
- Botched Plastic Surgery: Is Your Doctor Liable for Malpractice?
- Can You Sue the Hospital for Your Healthcare-Acquired Infection?
- Contraindicated Medication Lawsuits
- Dental Malpractice: What to Do if You’ve Suffered a Dental Injury
- Guide to Cerebral Palsy and Birth Injury Law
- Guide to Veterinary Malpractice Claims & Wrongful Pet Death Lawsuits
- Informed Consent Doesn’t Preclude a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
- Medical Malpractice vs. HMO Malpractice Lawsuits
- Patient Abandonment: Navigating Legal Rights and Remedies for Neglected Patients
- Suing a Healthcare Professional for Misdiagnosis or Failure to Diagnose
- What to Do if You Suspect Medical Malpractice
- How to Find the Best Medical Malpractice Attorney for Your Case
- 5 of the Most Common Types of Birth Injury