Hospital malpractice claims stabilize

A survey of 1,600 hospitals nationwide concluded that medical malpractice claims have dropped slightly, while the severity of the claims themselves seems to have flattened.

Claims totaled 1.96 per occupied beds or their equivalent in 2006, compared to about 2.8 claims per occupied bed in 2002, according to Schaumburg, Ill.-based Zurich North America.

But the hospital insurer indicated in its fifth annual report on benchmarking medical malpractice claims that smaller claims are continuing to grow.

"It's interesting to note that severity does continue to rise among claims valued under $1 million, which are the claims considered more typical within an institution's loss experience," said Leo Carroll, head of healthcare specialty products for Zurich. "While the most severe claims (those valued above $1 million and $5 million) have stabilized overall, the frequency of those large losses has increased slightly."

Overall, the average amount per claim between 1997 and 2007 (the years Zurich surveyed), suggested an annual increase of 4 percent. In total, the claims examined amounted to $37.7 billion.

Teaching and children's hospitals have the highest number and dollar amount of claims, while non-profit hospitals have the lowest amount. Malpractice litigation is particularly high in New York, Pennsylvania and Illinois.

The report suggested that tort reform in some states, risk management and patient safety programs may be related to the reduction in claims.

For more:
- read the Zurich report
- read the Healthcare Finance News article