The percentage of claims payments in excess of $1 million in medical liability lawsuits has doubled to about 8% since 1978, a trend that underscores concerns that lawsuits are primarily to blame for doctors' skyrocketing insurance costs, according to new statistics from the Physician 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 association, said during the group's annual meeting in Boston. Yet only about 25% of all malpractice claims last year included a claims or indemnity payment from insurers-and only about 1% of the 8,000 cases studied by the association ended up with a verdict for the plaintiff against the doctor.
One of his priorities in 2005, Smarr said, would be "debunking the lies of trial lawyers and the consumer groups that front for them." The statistics, he said, show the cost of insurance for doctors can't be limited until Congress sets caps on noneconomic damages in malpractice suits.