Medical Malpractice:

Characteristics of Claims Closed in 1984

HRD-87-55: Published: Apr 22, 1987. Publicly Released: May 1, 1987.

Additional Materials:


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

In response to a congressional request, GAO reported on the characteristics of a sample of medical malpractice claims closed in 1984 to provide nationally representative data relating to the: (1) economic losses of injured patients in relation to awards and settlements; (2) cost to insurers to resolve the claims; (3) length of time insurers took to resolve claims; and (4) similarity of awards and settlements for injuries of similar severity.

GAO found that: (1) the insurers in its sample closed an estimated 73,500 medical malpractice claims involving 103,300 health care providers; (2) the insurers closed about 43 percent of the claims with an indemnity payment; (3) the payments, which varied by type and severity of injury, totalled $2.6 billion and ranged from $1 to about $2.5 million; (4) by type, about 27 percent of the total indemnity payments were for obstetrics errors; (5) by severity, about 52 percent of the indemnity payments were for permanent total disabilities; and (6) the insurers spent $807 million to investigate and defend all claims closed in 1984. GAO also found that: (1) about 30 percent of the patients involved in closed claims suffered minor temporary disabilities, 6 percent experienced emotional injuries, and 15 percent died; (2) 80 percent of the claims resulted from injuries that occurred in hospitals; (3) the length of time between injury occurrence to claim filing ranged from less than 1 month to 219 months; (4) for claims closed with an indemnity payment, the median time from filing to closing was 23 months; (5) the median time for claims closed without payment was 17 months; (6) claims involving severe injuries and those resulting in the largest indemnity payments took the longest to resolve; (7) of the health care providers involved in closed claims, 71 percent were physicians and 21 percent were hospitals; and (8) obstetricians/gynecologists and general surgeons were most often named in claims.

Jul 21, 2016

Jun 23, 2016

May 12, 2016

Apr 14, 2016

Mar 4, 2016

Oct 30, 2015

Sep 9, 2015

Aug 17, 2015

Jul 9, 2015

Apr 27, 2015

Looking for more? Browse all our products here