Survey shows changes in frequency, outcomes of pediatric malpractice lawsuits


A new study in Pediatrics examined the trends in malpractice lawsuits, including how many are the subject of a lawsuit and whether the indemnity has changed.

The decision to join some medical specialties also means accepting a high likelihood of a malpractice lawsuit at some point during a career. Pediatrics is not one of those specialties, but the payouts in successful pediatric lawsuits often are higher than in other specialties. A new study in Pediatrics examined the trends in malpractice lawsuits.

The researchers used the Periodic Survey, a national random sample survey of American Academy of Pediatrics members. The survey had been sent out 7 times between 1987 and 2015 with questions asking about malpractice lawsuits. Analyses looked at the risk and outcome of lawsuits and the potential change in the indemnity amount over time.1

They found in the most recent survey that 21% of pediatricians reported being the subject of any claim or lawsuit, which was down from a peak of 33% in 1990. Successful outcomes in the most recent lawsuit had trended upward from 1987 to 2015, with a 58% successful rate in 2015. Additionally, indemnity remained unchanged, with an average total of $128,000 in 2018 dollars. A greater risk of a malpractice claim was linked to more work hours, longer career, male sex, and a hospital-based subspecialty, which included neonatology, pediatric emergency medicine, hospital medicine, and pediatric critical care.

The investigators said that the study was valuable because the knowledge can influence projects that promote quality and safety, change how risk-management decisions are made, and alter how practices are arranged. The information also can inform what’s appropriate for tort reform as well as other research.


1. Bondi SA, Tang SS, Altman RL, Fanaroff JM, McDonnell WM, Rusher JW. Trends in pediatric malpractice claims 1987-2015: results from the Periodic Survey of Fellows. Pediatrics. 2020;145(4):e20190711.

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