While attention has focused on state medical malpractice over the years, attention has shifted away from claims against and payouts by physicians and surgeons. A recent paper by Myungho Paik (Northwestern), Bernie Black (Northwestern), and David Hyman (Illinois), The Receding Tide of Medical Malpractice Litigation, exploits the National Practitioner Data Bank and finds that per-physician payouts have fallen 46% below their 1992 level. The abstract follows.
"Tort reform has been a hot issue during the past decade, as malpractice premiums spiked, and state and federal legislators debated the desirability of damages caps. Nine states adopted caps on non-economic or total damages during the period 2003-2006, joining twenty-two states that had previously adopted caps. Great effort has been devoted to studying the impact of these caps, but overall trends in claim rates and payouts have been ignored. Using the National Practitioner Data Bank, we find the frequency of paid medical malpractice claims per physician has been dropping steadily for almost 20 years, and is now less than half the level it was in 1992. Payouts per physician have also been dropping since 2003, and are now 46% below their 1992 level. The decline is largest in states that recently capped total or non-economic damages, but there are also large and sustained declines in states with older damage caps and states with no damage caps. We identify several factors that may partially explain these trends, and suggest possibilities for further research."