Most common medical liability claims and costs: Internal medicine

November 16, 2020 Sara Bergmanson

A specialty snapshot provided by the Medical Professional Liability Association (MPL Association) Data Sharing Project reports internal medicine as having the highest number of medical liability claims between 2016 and 2018.


The 1,969 internal medicine closed claims and lawsuits make up more than 10% of all closed claim data within those two years. Diagnostic errors made up 47% of allegations and 30% of allegations were related to procedures.

Patient death accounted in 47% of all incidents among internal medicine claims data with cardiac arrest being the most prevalent outcome. Lung cancer and cerebral infarction were also among top resulting medical conditions for diagnostic-related issues.

Additional insights

Top presenting medical conditions:

  • Abdominal and pelvic pain
  • Pain in throat and chest
  • Abnormalities of breathing

Top outcomes:

  • Cardiac arrest
  • Cerebral infarction
  • Pulmonary embolism

Top procedures:

  • Other diagnostic procedures
  • Prescription of medication
  • Other therapeutic procedures 

Defense costs

72% of the internal medicine claims were non-meritorious resulting in dropped, withdrawn, or dismissed cases with no indemnity payment made to the claimant. The average defense costs for these non-meritorious claims was $36,647.

24% of internal medicine claims closed resulted in an average indemnity payment of $375,545, which is higher than all health care specialties combined ($371,560).

21% of internal medicine claims involving a patient death had an average indemnity payment of $344,931.

The largest indemnity payments reported were $2 million each.

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.

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