An under examined component of the medical malpractice field involves the relation between physician insurance behavior and med mal claim payouts. One traditional roadblock to research in this area has been access to (that is, the absence of access to) closed-claim insurance data. A recent paper by Kathryn Zeiler (Georgetown) et al., Physicians' Insurance Limits and Malpractice Payments: Evidence from Texas Closed Claims, 1990-2003, exploits one of the few available databases. A brief summary of the paper's findings follow in the excerpted abstract.
"Physicians' insuring practices influence their incentives to take care when treating patients, their risk of making out-of-pocket payments in malpractice cases, and the adequacy of compensation available to injured patients. Yet, these practices and their effects have rarely been studied. Using Texas Department of Insurance data on 9,525 paid malpractice claims against physicians that closed 1990-2003, we provide the first systematic evidence on levels of coverage purchased by physicians with paid liability claims and how those levels affect out-of-pocket payments and patient compensation. We find that these physicians carried much less insurance than is conventionally believed, that their real primary limits declined steadily over time, that policy limits often act as effective caps on recovery, and that personal contributions by physicians to close claims were rare."