Surprising Statistics Relating to Medical Malpractice

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Unless you or a loved one has been impacted by medical neglect or received substandard medical care, you likely do not give much thought to medical malpractice in California. Nor are you likely to give the possibility of malpractice much thought when you visit your doctor or undergo a routine outpatient procedure.

Recent statistics, however, suggest that medical malpractice occurs with greater regularity than people want to admit. Not only is the frequency of medical malpractice surprising but so are the most common ways patients are being injured by their doctors and surgeons.

Medical Malpractice as a Cause of Death

A recent study conducted by John Hopkins University and reported in The Washington Post found medical mistakes and malpractice to be the third leading cause of death in the United States.

According to the statistics, medical errors account for approximately 251,000 deaths annually in the United States. Malpractice kills more individuals than Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and suicide combined.

The only causes of death that killed more individuals, per the study, were heart disease and cancer.

Most Common Types of Medical Malpractice

About 85,000 medical malpractice claims are filed every year. The three most common medical errors that lead to malpractice cases fall into three general categories, according to These categories include:

Treatment Malpractice

These claims allege that a doctor or other medical professional provided incorrect or inappropriate treatment for their ailment. This can include recommending a course of treatment that did not result in the desired outcome or aggravated the patient’s condition.

Treatment malpractice claims accounted for 28.5 percent of all medical malpractice claims filed between 2017 and 2021.

Diagnostic Errors

A diagnostic error can include a failure to diagnose, which occurs when the doctor or medical professional misses the signs and symptoms of a disease or condition from which the patient is suffering.

Sometimes a failure to diagnose can include a misdiagnosis, where the healthcare professional reaches an incorrect conclusion about the patient’s ailment. In either case, diagnostic errors can delay or deny life-saving treatment.

Malpractice pertaining to diagnoses accounted for 26 percent of malpractice claims.

Surgical Mistakes

Errors committed in the operating room accounted for 24.1 percent of all medical malpractice claims. This category includes cases where the surgeon operates on the incorrect body part, leaves a foreign object inside the body, or performs the surgery in a negligent manner.

Average Settlement for a Medical Malpractice Case

Numerous factors play into the amount of compensation a medical malpractice case will settle for, including statutory limitations that some states have placed on the amount of recovery possible for plaintiffs. The top five states with the highest average settlements for malpractice cases between 2017 and 2021 include:

  • Maine (average $717,613)
  • Illinois (average $714,047)
  • Massachusetts (average $707,085)
  • Connecticut (average $664,440)
  • Minnesota (average $659,651)

California ranked near the bottom of the list, behind states like Indiana, Oklahoma, and Kansas. California’s average medical malpractice settlement for the years 2017 through 2021 was $215,995.

Not Many Med Mal Cases Result in a Successful Trial

Taking a medical malpractice case to trial comes with significant risks and potential rewards. While jury verdicts typically result in higher compensation awards, obtaining a favorable verdict is not certain.

According to statistics taken from the National Practitioner Databank Public Use File and compiled by HomeTown Health, LLC, when a payout is made on behalf of a medical provider, 96.7 percent of the time, it is because the provider reached a settlement with the injured patient.

Only 3.3 percent of payouts were due to other reasons, including pre-settlement payment arrangements. About 1.4 percent of payouts are believed to be due to some unofficial payment between the parties before an official settlement was reached.

Only about 1.9 percent of all payouts made by medical malpractice insurers on behalf of their clients were due to a judgment the plaintiff obtained at trial.

Get Help from an Experienced Los Angeles Medical Malpractice Lawyer

If you or a loved one has suffered harm at the hands of a negligent medical provider, having the right assistance with your case can make a significant difference in the outcome of your claim.

Contact The Trial Law Offices of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq. With our background in the law and medical field, we can bring insightful analysis to your injury and will work to give your case the attention it deserves.

Questions? Contact us