Public Citizen Notes Downward Trend in Medical Malpractice Awards

Whitney Taylor | November 3rd, 2014

gavel and stethoscopeMedical malpractice payouts appear to be on the decline, despite evidence that shows malpractice injuries continue to be a problem in the U.S. The new data comes from watchdog group Public Citizen, which used a variety of sources to collect the new statistics. Whether injured patients accepted a settlement out of court or filed a NYC medical malpractice lawsuit, the organization says the new findings are troubling.

Number and value of malpractice payouts decline

According to Public Citizen, malpractice payments have been decreasing both in amount and number over the last 15 years, despite a small increase between 2012 and 2013. The organization found no evidence that medical errors were declining in a similar fashion, indicating injured patients may not be getting the compensation they need to recover from injuries and move forward with their lives. The group attributes at least a portion of the decline on medical practitioners “feverishly advocating” for caps on medical payout amounts for more than a decade.

“Despite rhetoric about ‘frivolous lawsuits,’ the vast majority of medical malpractice payments compensate for injuries no one would deem frivolous,” the Public Citizen report states.

Serious injuries involved in majority of claims

Public Citizen also negates the idea that payouts were made for “frivolous lawsuit complaints.” According to the organization, three-fifths of all payments made during 2013 were compensation for medical malpractice or negligence that led to death, brain damage, paralysis or other injuries requiring lifelong medical care. According to statistics from Becker’s Hospital Review, those types of injuries also made up more than three-fourths of the alleged injuries in medical malpractice claims in 2012.

Public Citizen found that the number of payouts increased by a small amount between 2012 and 2013, from 9,370 to 9,677. Value of payments also increased somewhat, from $3.1 billion in 2012 to $3.3 billion in 2013. However, the group noted that when the figures were corrected to adjust for inflation, the increase was completely negated.

Figures for the report came from the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), an office of the federal government. Information about medical malpractice payments made on behalf of hospitals, rather than individual providers, was not included in the data.

Public Citizen found that insurance rates for malpractice liability were also on the decline. In 2012, premiums paid for this type of insurance totaled $10 billion. That figure dropped to $9.8 billion in 2013. Information about medical liability insurance rates was taken from SNL Insurance Daily, a website for the insurance industry.

The American Medical Association questioned the validity of the Public Citizen report, based on the sources used to collect data. A spokesperson for the AMA told Med Page Today that data taken from the NPDB was “inherently flawed,” due to questions over duplicate entries and incomplete information. The data also excluded information about the 65 percent of claims that were “dropped, withdrawn or dismissed,” according to the AMA.

Legal assistance for NYC malpractice victims

If you are injured at the hands of a medical provider, these statistics won’t mean too much. You are too busy worrying about how to heal from your injuries and pay your bills to wonder whether Public Citizen used accurate data in their statistics. You need expert legal advice for pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit in NYC, not someone to tell you malpractice payouts are declining.

At The Sanders Firm, our legal team understands how an injury caused by medical mistakes or negligence can impact every area of your life. We will help you pursue monetary damages you are entitled for medical expenses, lost income and intangible losses accrued. We work with clients every day from the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, Staten Island or Long Island to help them collect compensation and move forward with their lives. Call us toll-free at 1-800-FAIR-PLAY to learn more about your legal options and get a free evaluation of your case.


  1. Med Page Today, Public Citizen Decries Fall in Malpractice Awards, http://www.medpagetoday.com/PracticeManagement/Medicolegal/48233

  2. Public Citizen, Public Safety and Medical Malpractice, http://www.citizen.org/Page.aspx?pid=2513

  3. Becher’s Hospital Review, 29 Statistics on Medical Malpractice Payouts and Lawsuits, http://www.beckershospitalreview.com/legal-regulatory-issues/29-statistics-on-medical-malpractice-payouts-and-lawsuits.html

  4. National Conference of State Legislators, Medical Liability/Malpractice Statutes of Limitation, http://www.ncsl.org/research/financial-services-and-commerce/medical-liability-malpractice-statutes-of-limitation.aspx