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Study exposes repeat medical malpractice claim risk


A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine provides an interesting look into physicians with multiple paid medical malpractice claims.

Chicago residents may become concerned about the quality of their health care after hearing about cases in which others have been injured or even died due to medical errors. While many times, people can trust that they are receiving the right type of medical treatment and care, the chance for a health care provider to make a mistake does exist. Understanding some of the parameters around these cases can be helpful for people when making their choices in providers.

A look at physicians with multiple paid malpractice claims

A study conducted by researchers at Stanford University reviewed records for the 10-year period running from 2005 through 2014. The results showed that 32 percent of all claims that resulted in payouts were attributed to only 1 percent of physicians. Out of all physicians with paid claims, 20 percent were associated with two or three paid claims during that timeframe.

The study also showed that an average of one out of every three medical malpractice claims resulted in a payout to the plaintiff or claimant. Researchers found a connection between the number of paid claims and a risk of future paid claims. For example, there were 2,160 providers with three paid claims against them over the 10 years. These physicians have a 24 percent chance of being the subject of subsequent paid claims within a period of only two years.

In addition to identifying an increased risk based upon prior claim history, the study found that internists, family physicians, general surgeons and OB/GYNs were more likely to be involved in paid claims than other specialists. Male providers were linked to 82 percent of the claims that resulted in payouts. More payouts were associated with older providers than with younger ones.

Illinois medical malpractice laws

A medical error can take many different forms and people may not always know immediately that a problem has occurred. This can make preventing errors or pursuing compensation a challenge at times. The Illinois General Assembly explains that the state’s statute of limitations for initiating a medical malpractice claim takes into account the fact that errors may sometimes be discovered well after they have happened.

The standard statute of limitations indicates that claims can be filed up to two years after an error has been discovered or after it should have reasonably been discovered. In most cases, claims are to be filed a maximum of four years from the date of the actual error. There are some exceptions and special statutes for cases involving minors or disabled persons as well.

Recommendations for Illinois residents

Waiting too long to initiate a claim may leave a person without recourse due to the statute of limitations. This reality makes it important for patients to take action promptly. Speaking with a lawyer about a situation is a good way to identify what steps should be taken if a medical error is suspected.