Capson

Medical Malpractice Insurance by Specialty: Costs, Statistics, & Notable Facts

When going into medicine, providers typically find their specialty based on a variety of factors: interest, skill, and demand are some top reasons. However, not at the top of their list is the likelihood of being sued or how much their medical malpractice insurance will cost just based on their specialty alone.


According to 2017 data, specialists were more likely than primary care physicians to have been named in a malpractice lawsuit. Surgeons and OB/GYNs lead all other specialties (85% of both groups) in being sued. The specialties sued most often also tend to have the highest malpractice premiums. 


Most physicians can expect to face at least one malpractice claim over a 30 year career, but the specialty you are in makes a big difference. See the table below:

 

Claims Statistics by Age & Risk Level

Provider Age  Low-Risk Specialty High-Risk Specialty
Providers 45 years of age 36% have had at least 1 malpractice claim 88% have had at least 1 malpractice claim
Providers 65 years of age 75% have at least 1 malpractice claim 99% have had at least 1 malpractice claim

 

 Idemnity Payments Made by Age & Specialty

Provider Age Low-Risk Specialty High-Risk Specialty
Providers 45 years of age 5% have made at least 1 indemnity payment  33% have made at least 1 indemnity payment 
Providers 65 years of age 19% have made at least 1 indemnity payment  71% have made at least 1 indemnity payment

 

Across specialties, an estimated 7.4 percent of physicians have a claim annually, and 1.6 percent make an indemnity payment. The mean indemnity payment is $274,887, and the median is $111,749.

 

Insurance Costs, Law Suit Rates, & Average Payouts by Pracitce Specialization 

OB/GYN

  • Medical malpractice insurance for OB/GYN physicians will always have expensive premiums. OB/GYN physicians also have the longest “tail” exposure and expensive tail coverage costs. On average, OB/GYN providers pay anywhere from $85,000 to as much as $200,000. For the OB/GYN specialty, the median indemnity payment is $150,000, and the mean is $375,000.
  •  According to Dr. Adam Levine, MD, JD who is an Adjunct Professor of Law at Stetson University College of Law and Western Michigan University Cooley School of Law, OB/GYNs are sued more frequently and pay more for less professional liability coverage than physicians in virtually all other medical specialties except neurosurgery.
  •  77.3% of ACOG (The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) fellows have been sued, and a career choice may be dependent on the fear of medical malpractice liability, one critical issue in determining where, and presumably whether, to practice is the local medical malpractice climate.
  •  For the OB/GYN specialty, an estimated 11.2% of physicians face a claim annually and of those claims 3.7% results in a payment to a plaintiff.
  •  For the OB/GYN specialty, 85% of providers have been sued.
  •  For the OB/GYN specialty, 74.1% of physicians by age 45 faced at least 1 claim and 97.2% faced at least 1 claim by age 65. For the OB/GYN specialty, 30.0% of physicians faced an indemnity claim by age 45 and 71.2% faced an indemnity claim by age 65.
  • The OB/GYN speciality alone had the 12th highest average annual proportion of physicians with a claim, but it had the highest payment rate (>38%).
  • Out of the 66 outlier indemnity payments, which were defined as pay-outs/payments exceeding $1 million, 11 of these payments were for obstetrics and gynecology providers.

Psychiatrist

  • For psychiatry, an estimated 2.6% of physicians face a claim annually and of those claims 0.2% results in a payment to a plaintiff.
  • For the psychiatry specialty, the median indemnity payment is $60,000, and the mean is $185,000.

General Practitioners / Family Practice

  • For family practice, an estimated 5.2% of physicians face a claim annually and of those claims 1.3% results in a payment to a plaintiff.
  • For family practice, the median indemnity payment is $130,000, and the mean is $255,000.
  • For family medicine, 42.3% physicians by age 45 faced at least 1 claim and 76.7% faced at least 1 claim by age 65.
  • For family medicine, 10.8% of physicians faced an indemnity claim by age 45 and 31.2% faced an indemnity claim by age 65.

Orthopedic Surgeons

  • For orthopedic surgery, an estimated 14.2% of physicians face a claim annually and of those claims 4.3% results in a payment to a plaintiff.
  • For the orthopedic surgery specialty, the median indemnity payment is $110,000, and the mean is $225,000.
  • For general surgery and surgical subspecialties, 79.7% of physicians by age 45 faced at least 1 claim and 98.4% faced at least 1 claim by age 65. For general surgery and surgical subspecialties, 26.3% of physicians faced an indemnity claim by age 45 and 63.3% faced an indemnity claim by age 65.
  • For general surgery or surgery subspecialties, 85% of providers have been sued.


Pediatricians

  • For pediatrics, an estimated 3.1% of physicians face a claim annually and of those claims 0.3% results in a payment to a plaintiff.
  • For the pediatric specialty, the median indemnity payment is $160,000, and the mean is $520,923.
  • Out of the 66 outlier indemnity payments, which were defined as pay-outs/payments exceeding $1 million, 7 of these payments were for pediatric providers.


Radiologists

  • For diagnostic radiology, an estimated 7.3% of physicians face a claim annually and of those claims 2.3% results in a payment to a plaintiff.
  • For the diagnostic radiology specialty, the median indemnity payment is $97,600, and the mean is $233,000.
  • For the diagnostic radiology specialty, 70% of providers have been sued.


Neurosurgeons

  • For neurosurgery, an estimated 19.1% of physicians face a claim annually and of those claims 3% results in a payment to a plaintiff.
  • For the neurosurgery specialty, the median indemnity payment is $230,400, and the mean is $344,811. The average indemnity payment for neurosurgery was less than the average payment for other specialties like pediatricians, even though neurosurgeons were several times more likely to face a claim in a year.
  • For general surgery and surgical subspecialties, 79.7% of physicians by age 45 faced at least 1 claim and 98.4% faced at least 1 claim by age 65. For general surgery and surgical subspecialties, 26.3% of physicians faced an indemnity claim by age 45 and 63.3% faced an indemnity claim by age 65.
  • For general surgery and surgery subspecialties, 85% of providers have been sued.

 

Cardiovascular Surgeons

  • For cardiovascular surgery, an estimated 18.9% of physicians face a claim annually and of those claims 3.8% results in a payment to a plaintiff.
  • For the cardiovascular surgery specialty, the median indemnity payment is $159,000, and the mean is $308,423.
  • For general surgery and surgical subspecialties, 79.7% of physicians by age 45 faced at least 1 claim and 98.4% faced at least 1 claim by age 65. For general surgery and surgical subspecialties, 26.3% of physicians faced an indemnity claim by age 45 and 63.3% faced an indemnity claim by age 65.
  • For general surgery and surgery subspecialties, 85% of providers have been sued.


General Surgeons

  • For general surgery, an estimated 15.3% of physicians face a claim annually and of those claims 4.2% results in a payment to a plaintiff.
  • For the general surgery, the median indemnity payment is $178,000, and the mean is $290,524.
  • For general surgery and surgical subspecialties, 79.7% of physicians by age 45 faced at least 1 claim and 98.4% faced at least 1 claim by age 65.
  • For general surgery and surgery subspecialties, 85% of providers have been sued.

 

Internal Medicine

  • For internal medicine, an estimated 7.8% of physicians face a claim annually and of those claims 2.4% results in a payment to a plaintiff.
  • For internal medicine, the median indemnity payment is $292,000, and the mean is $311,524.