Paid Medical Malpractice Claims: How Strongly Does the Past Predict the Future?


Using hazard analysis, we study whether various physician characteristics, including prior paid claim history, gender, specialty, years of experience, type of degree (M.D. versus D.O.), country of medical school attendance (U.S. versus non-U.S.), and gender) predict future paid medical malpractice (“med mal”) claims, using detailed data on all licensed physicians and all paid claims in Illinois over a 25-year period. This level of granularity is not available using national data. After controlling for other factors, physicians with a single prior paid claim have a four-fold higher risk of future claims than physicians with zero prior paid claims. Male gender, attending a non-U.S. medical school, and practicing in a high-malpractice-risk specialty all predict higher paid claim risk. Paid claim risk is also higher for physicians with 6-15 prior years of experience than for those who are either earlier or later in their careers. We find having an M.D. (rather than a D.O.) is associated with higher paid claim risk, but only in our multiple-failure models.