About 8% of all claims payments in medical liability lawsuits today exceed $1 million.
That's double the percentage of claims of a million dollars or more made in 1978, a trend that underscores concerns that lawsuits are primarily to blame for doctors' skyrocketing insurance costs, according to new statistics from the Physicians Insurers Association of America.
Meanwhile, the average payment climbed to about $328,000 last year, increasing from approximately $200,000 in 1996, Larry Smarr, president of the PIAA, said during the association's annual meeting in Boston.
Yet only about 25% of all malpractice claims last year included an indemnity payment for insurers-and only about 1% of the 8,000 cases studied by the PIAA ended up with a verdict for the plaintiff against the doctor.
One of his key priorities for the next year, Smarr told an audience of about 700 gathered for the conference, will be "debunking the lies of trial lawyers and the consumer groups that front for them."
The statistics, he said, show that the cost of insurance for doctors cannot be limited until Congress imposes caps on noneconomic damages in malpractice lawsuits.