Characteristics of Orthopaedic Malpractice Claims of Pediatric and Adult Patients in Private Practice

Matthew E Oetgen, P Divya Parikh
Journal of Pediatric Orthopedics 2016, 36 (2): 213-7

BACKGROUND: Medical liability exposure varies based on scope of practice, patient demographics, and location of practice. There is a generally held belief that treatment of pediatric patients increases one's medicolegal risk. We examined a large national database of orthopaedic malpractice claims to determine if pediatric malpractice claims were associated with a less favorable medicolegal outcome compared with adults.

METHODS: Physician Insurers Association of America is an association of medical liability insurance carriers providing liability coverage for 60% of private practice physicians in the United States. The Physician Insurers Association of America data registry of closed medical liability claims was examined, including all orthopaedic claims between 1985 and 2012 in this review. Claims were categorized based on the age of the claimant (pediatric: less than 21 y, adult: 21 y or older). These groups were compared based on percentage of claims resulting in payment, indemnity paid, and years between occurrence of incident and filing of claim. In addition, the top 10 most prevalent claims were identified and compared between groups.

RESULTS: A total of 25,702 closed orthopaedic claims were included. Pediatric claims accounted for 13% of the data. The average time from incident to claim filing was 1.92 years for pediatrics and 1.59 years for adults. Pediatric claims resulted in a higher percent of payment (33% vs. 30%) and average indemnity paid ($189,732 vs. $180,171) compared with adults. Five of the top 10 conditions resulting in a claim in each group were the same. Comparing these 5 conditions, in general there were minimal differences in the average time to claim filing between the groups, but larger average indemnity paid in the pediatric group.

CONCLUSIONS: There appear to be moderate differences in outcomes of orthopaedic malpractice claims between adult and pediatric patients. The longer statute of limitations associated with pediatric claims does not appear to portend a less favorable medicolegal outcome or excessively longer time to claims filing for pediatric patients.

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