In the New England Journal of Medicine today, David Studdert, Marie Bismark and others have written on the prevalence and characteristics of physicians prone to malpractice claims.

Although based on US records, the data set is substantial – more than 65,000 claims over 10 years.  The authors concluded that a small number of physicians with distinctive characteristics accounted for a disproportionately large number of paid malpractice claims.

The results included:

  • Approximately 1% of all physicians accounted for 32% of paid claims.
  • Among physicians with paid claims, 84% incurred only one during the study period (accounting for 68% of all paid claims), 16% had at least two paid claims (accounting for 32% of the claims), and 4% had at least three paid claims (accounting for 12% of the claims).

Medical Observer newspaper, discussing the article, alludes to the so called ‘frequent flyer’ issue – noting that compared with a doctor with one paid claim, a doctor with six or more is 12 times as likely to be sued again.

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