Law and medicine

Physicians in these 10 specialties are most likely to get sued

Physicians in specialties are more likely to be sued than those in primary care, and certain specialties see significantly more malpractice suits than others, according to a new Medscape report.

Nearly 6 in 10 physicians reported being sued at some point in their career, a recent Medscape report found. To prepare the report (login required), Medscape surveyed 4,300 physicians in over 29 specialties.

Physicians who have been named in a malpractice lawsuit reported spending significant time preparing a defense—42% devoted more than 40 hours to defense-preparing tasks—and found the entire lawsuit process typically lasted one to two years.

What happened with these lawsuits? A third were settled before going to trial. In 11% of cases, the judge/jury ruled in favor of the physician, and the judge/jury ruled in favor of the patient in just 3% of cases.

Nearly 20% of physicians said if they could do anything differently, they would have had better chart documentation of their patient encounters. Following a lawsuit, while nearly half of physicians said it didn’t affect the way they practiced medicine, one-quarter said their trust in patients had been eroded, which made them treat patients differently.

Overall, physicians in specialties are more likely to be sued than physicians in primary care—62% vs. 52%—and certain specialties see significantly more malpractice suits than others.

Top 10 specialties for lawsuits
Specialty Percentage of physicians who’ve been sued
General surgery 85%
Urology 84%
Otolaryngology 83%
OB-GYN and women’s health 83%
Specialized surgery 80%
Radiology 76%
Emergency medicine 76%
Cardiology 65%
Gastroenterology 63%
Anesthesiology 62%

The state where a physician practices will also influence the likelihood of lawsuits. Some states have more litigious cultures and lawsuit climates that are more favorable to plaintiffs, Medscape notes.

Top 10 states for lawsuits
State Percentage of physicians who’ve been sued
Kentucky 75%
Nevada 73%
Illinois 71%
New Mexico 70%
Indiana 70%
Florida 69%
Pennsylvania 68%
Tennessee 67%
New York 66%
Arizona 63%

Related reading:

The 15 most in-demand specialties in 2019 and their base salaries

The safest hospitals in each state, according to Leapfrog

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