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Doctors Who Get Sued Are Likely to Get Sued Again

Doctors Who Get Sued Are Likely to Get Sued Again

In December of 2021, Dr. Eli Serur of New York paid $10 million in damages to a Staten Island woman and her husband. According to statistics, this was most likely not the first time he paid a malpractice award, and it may not be the last.

Researchers in a 2016 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine determined that 94% of doctors had never been targeted by a medical malpractice claim from 2005 to 2014. This means that just 6% of doctors were the source of all medical malpractice claims.

But of that small number of doctors who paid malpractice claims during the period investigated, one in six paid two or more claims, and roughly 4% paid at least three claims.

The main takeaway from this study was that a small number of doctors were responsible for a disproportionate number of paid malpractice claims — and that if a doctor paid a claim, there was about a one in six chance they would be named in another malpractice lawsuit.

Why Are Certain Doctors More Likely to Be Targeted by Multiple Medical Malpractice Lawsuits?

The study did not determine the precise reason for those numbers, but it did provide interesting hints as to why doctors who have been sued are likely to be sued again.

The first hint involves the ages of the doctors in the study. After controlling for the number of years they had been practicing, the study determined that older physicians were more likely to face multiple malpractice lawsuits than younger ones. Doctors under 35 were one-third as likely to have been sued multiple times.

This age difference can be explained in several ways, but the most likely explanation is that some older doctors aren’t keeping current with medical progress. If they are using out-of-date techniques or medical knowledge, that could be the source of increased malpractice claims.

Another interesting fact was that specialist surgeons were almost twice as likely as internists to have paid claims. And they were, in turn, about 30% more likely than pediatricians to have been sued.

It is less obvious why this is true, though some factors that could account for this include:

  • Complexity: Surgeons typically take more complicated cases than internists or pediatricians
  • Familiarity: Patients generally know pediatricians and internists better than they know a surgeon and are less likely to sue someone they know
  • Different Stakes: The consequences of a mistake during surgery are more likely to be dire than a mistake during other less invasive procedures
  • Wealth: Surgeons are often considered to be wealthier, which may make them the targets for more lawsuits

The answer is probably some combination of all of these factors. You are more likely to sue a surgeon that you never met before the surgery if they permanently injure you than you are a pediatrician who has been treating your child for years if they make a mistake.

Finally, one other demographic is less likely to be sued: women. The study doesn’t delve into the reasons why this is true, but it could be related to the types of medicine that women most often enter, with pediatrics and gynecology being the most common.

How to Protect Yourself from Medical Malpractice

The most important finding you should take from this study is that the majority of doctors have never been sued for medical malpractice. Good doctors significantly outnumber bad doctors, and most take their oaths to protect life seriously.

With that in mind, if a doctor is careless with the health of one patient, it probably isn’t a one-time occurrence. There is a good chance that the same doctor either will or has been careless with the health of other patients.

If a doctor has paid for at least two previous medical malpractice claims, they are twice as likely to face another claim in the future. If they have paid at least six claims, they are 12 times as likely to face another.

The best way to protect your health is to research the legal history of a doctor before letting them treat you. While this information can be difficult to uncover, a medical malpractice attorney can research it for you relatively quickly.

Consult with a Medical Malpractice Lawyer

If you believe that you or a family member has been harmed due to medical malpractice by a New York physician, consult with an experienced attorney at Silberstein, Awad & Miklos. Our team is dedicated to protecting the rights of our clients and their families. Schedule a free case review today.