NYMC Faculty Publications

Trends in Pediatric Malpractice Claims 1987-2015: Results From the Periodic Survey of Fellows

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Background: Pediatricians are less frequently sued than other physicians. When suits are successful, however, the average payout is higher. Little is known about changes in the risk of litigation over time. We sought to characterize malpractice lawsuit trends for pediatricians over time.

Methods: The Periodic Survey is a national random sample survey of American Academy of Pediatrics members. Seven surveys between 1987 and 2015 asked questions regarding malpractice (n = 5731). Bivariate and multivariable analyses examined trends and factors associated with risk and outcome of malpractice claims and lawsuits. Descriptive analyses examined potential change in indemnity amount over time.

Results: In 2015, 21% of pediatricians reported ever having been the subject of any claim or lawsuit, down from a peak of 33% in 1990. Report of successful outcomes in the most-recent suit trended upward between 1987 and 2015, greatest in 2015 at 58%. Median indemnity was unchanged, averaging $128 000 in 2018 dollars. In multivariate analysis, male sex, hospital-based subspecialty (neonatology, pediatric critical care, pediatric emergency medicine, and hospital medicine), longer career, and more work hours were associated with a greater risk of malpractice claim.

Conclusions: From 1987 to 2015, the proportion of pediatricians sued has decreased and median indemnity has remained unchanged. Male pediatricians and hospital-based subspecialists were more likely to have been sued. Greater knowledge of the epidemiology of malpractice claims against pediatricians is valuable because it can impact practice arrangements, advise risk-management decisions, influence quality and safety projects, and provide data to guide advocacy for appropriate tort reform and future research.

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