Malpractice claims involving pediatricians: epidemiology and etiology

Aaron E Carroll, Jennifer L Buddenbaum
Pediatrics 2007, 120 (1): 10-7

OBJECTIVE: Our goals were to examine malpractice claims data that are specific to the specialty of pediatrics and to provide a better understanding of the effect that malpractice has on this specialty.

METHODS: The Physician Insurers Association of America is a trade association of medical malpractice insurance companies. The data contained in its data-sharing project represent approximately 25% of the medical malpractice claims in the United States at a given time. Although this database is not universally comprehensive, it does contain information not available in the National Practitioner Data Bank, such as information on claims that are not ultimately paid and specialty of the defendant. We asked the Physician Insurers Association of America to perform a query of its data-sharing project database to find malpractice claims reported between January 1, 1985, and December 31, 2005, in which the defendant's medical specialty was coded as pediatrics. Comparison data were collected for 27 other specialties recorded in the database.

RESULTS: During a 20-year period (1985-2005), there were 214,226 closed claims reported to the Physician Insurers Association of America data-sharing project. Pediatricians account for 2.97% of these claims, making it 10th among the 28 specialties in terms of the number of closed claims. Pediatrics ranks 16th in terms of indemnity payment rate (28.13%), with dentistry ranked highest at 43.35%, followed by obstetrics and gynecology at 35.50%. Indemnity payment refers to settlements or awards made directly to plaintiffs as a result of claim-resolution process. Data are presented on changes over time, claim-adjudication status, expenses on claims, the causes of claims, and injuries sustained.

CONCLUSIONS: Malpractice is a serious issue. Some will read the results of this analysis and draw comfort; others will view the same data with alarm and surprise. Regardless of how one interprets these findings, they are important in truly informing the debate with generalizable facts.

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