OLR Research Report


February 19, 2003

 

2003-R-0218

MEDICAL MALPRACTICE

 

By: Jerome Harleston, Senior Attorney

You want to know (1) how many medical malpractice lawsuits and settlements have been filed or negotiated over the last 10 years in Connecticut; (2) what particular medical specialties, if any, have been the defendants in a majority of medical malpractices cases; and (3) how does this data compare with national trends.

According to Connecticut Judicial Department statistics, the number of medical malpractice lawsuits filed has remained stable since 1986. The number of medical malpractice lawsuits filed in Connecticut by year is shown on table 1.

Table 1: Lawsuits Filed

Year

Number of Cases Filed

1986

512

1987

377

1988

312

1989

298

1990

262

1991

272

1992

331

1993

337

1994

385

1995

384

1996

382

Table 1: Continued

Year

Number of Cases Filed

1997

337

1998

389

1999

369

2000

366

2001

368

Judicial Department statistics on the number of medical malpractice lawsuits disposed (settled, judgment entered, or withdrawn) from 1992 to 2001 are shown on table 2.

Table 2: Lawsuits Disposed

Year

Number of Cases Disposed

1992

321

1993

320

1994

329

1995

298

1996

351

1997

377

1998

380

1999

327

2000

397

2001

460

The Judicial Department retains no data on the number of medical malpractice cases that are settled outside of the court's purview (i.e., where a settlement is reached and no claim is filed with the court).

Testimony from the February 13, 2003, public hearing on medical malpractice suggest that three specialties, obstetricians and gynecologists (OB/GYNs), neurosurgeons, and pediatricians, are more “at risk” to claims of medical malpractice in Connecticut than other specialties. This is reflected in the premium increase these specialists pay. According to the Connecticut Medical Insurance Company (CMIC), OB/GYNS, neurosurgeons, and pediatricians will pay 30% more for medical malpractice coverage in 2003 than they paid in 2002. Over a five-year period OB/GYNs will have seen their premiums increase 118.0%, and pediatricians 141.0%. CMIC also suggests that it is the severity rather than the frequency of claims that is driving malpractice premiums higher.

The Medical Liability Monitor, a publication that monitors malpractice issues, indicates that nationwide internist, general surgeons, and OB/GYNs have experienced the largest percentage premium increases.

According to a National Academy for State Health Policy paper, The Medical Malpractice Insurance Crisis: Opportunities for State Action, the data are inconclusive as to whether medical malpractice claims have increased more than the corresponding growth in population, the number of doctors and hospitals, or technological advancements. And because of the reluctance to report errors, the data are inconclusive as to whether any increase in malpractice claims corresponds to an increase in incidents of medical malpractice or medical errors.

JH:ts