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Most common medical liability claims and costs: Ob-Gyn surgery

A specialty snapshot provided by the Medical Professional Liability Association (MPL Association) Data Sharing Project reports ob/gyn as having the highest number of paid medical liability claims and the second highest total number of closed claims between 2016 and 2018.

Top 10 specialties by paid claims 

Top 10 specialties by closed claims

The 1,778 ob-gyn closed claims and lawsuits make up 9.5% of all closed claim data within those two years, coming second after internal medicine for the highest number of closed claims. Procedural issues make up 66% of allegations and 25% of allegations are related to diagnostics.

Top allegations among ob/gyn claims

Birth injury to peripheral nervous system was the most prevalent outcome for ob/gyn claims and a patient died in 16% of all claims reported.

Additional insights

Top presenting medical conditions:

  • Weeks of gestation
  • Leiomyoma of uterus
  • Excessive, frequent, and irregular menstruation
  • Pregnant state
  • Other obstructed labor
  • Encounter for supervision of normal pregnancy

Top outcomes:

  • Birth injury to peripheral nervous system
  • Complication of procedures, not elsewhere classified
  • Emotional distress only
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Other disturbances of cerebral status of newborn

Top procedures:

  • Other procedures to assist delivery
  • Cesarean delivery
  • Hysterectomy; abdominal and vaginal
  • Other diagnostic procedures
  • Other diagnostic procedures; female organs

Defense costs

55% of the ob/gyn claims were non-meritorious resulting in dropped, withdrawn, or dismissed cases with no indemnity payment made to the claimant. The average defense cost for these non-meritorious claims was $39,881.

percentage of closed claims by disposition

36% of ob-gyn claims closed resulted in an average indemnity payment of $459,469 which is higher than the average of all health care specialties combined ($371,560).

37% of ob/gyn closed claims involving a patient death had an average indemnity payment of $503,191.

40% of ob/gyn claims linked with birth injury to peripheral nervous system resulted in an average indemnity payment of $542,949.

8% of claims were resolved through trial, and the jury found in favor of the ob/gyn 91% of the time. The average cost to defend these claims was $192,789.

The most expensive outcome was cerebral palsy with an average indemnity payment of $913,750. Grave injuries had an average indemnity payment of $844,375. The largest indemnity payment reported was $4 million.

total and average indemnity payments for ob-gyn

About the MPL Association

The MPL Association is the insurance industry trade association that represents a full range of entities doing business in the medical professional liability arena. Their mission is to promote, protect, educate, and connect medical professional liability insurers that support the quality delivery of healthcare and practice of medicine. MPL Association members insure nearly 2 million healthcare professionals around the world including more than two-thirds of America’s private practicing physicians.

The MPL Association launched the Data Sharing Project in 1985 to identify areas in the practice of medicine that are most vulnerable to medical liability claims as well as support efforts towards medical liability reform. It is the largest ongoing independent collaborative database of medical professional liability claims and lawsuits.

Reprinted with permission from the MPL Association. DSP Specialty Snapshot, 2020 Edition. MPL Association. Copyright, 2020.

The information provided may be used for personal use only. Any other use requires prior permission of the MPL Association.