New Report Shows 77% of Surgeons are Named in Lawsuits

10 Feb, 2022 F.J. Thomas


Sarasota, FL ( – Over half of practicing physicians have been involved in a lawsuit, and among surgeons that percentage is even higher.

According to the latest Medscape survey, Surgeon Malpractice Report 2021, 77 percent of the surgeons polled stated they have been named in a lawsuit, with 26 percent stating they were the only one named and 66 percent stating other parties were also named. Only 20 percent of surgeons stated they were not surprised by the lawsuit, while 42 percent stated they were slightly surprised. Thirty eight percent stated they did not expect a lawsuit and were very surprised. In comparison of physicians in general, 14 percent stated they were not surprised.

When asked if they could identify patients that would sue, 58 percent stated they could and 42 percent stated they could not.

Complications from surgery or treatment was the top reason given for lawsuits at 65 percent. Poor outcomes ranked second at 21 percent, followed by wrongful death at 17 percent. Failure to diagnose or delayed diagnosis accounted for 16 percent of lawsuits. Medication administration errors accounted for 2 percent of the lawsuits. In a separate analysis from Coverys of 2,500 malpractice claims, 78 percent of the claims were related to the surgeon’s performance during the surgery, with a third of those injuries considered significant.   

When asked if the lawsuit was warranted, most of the surgeons polled believed it was not. Eighty-two percent stated they felt the lawsuit held merit, 9 percent stated the lawsuit was warranted, and 9 percent were unsure. When asked if the lawsuit was fair, 54 percent stated yes and 46 percent stated it was not.

Most surgeons reported that the lawsuits were settled before trial, at 39 percent. By comparison, 33 percent of physicians in general stated their lawsuits were settled before trial. Seventeen percent reported that the judge or jury ruled in their favor, and only 3 percent reported the judge or jury decision was in favor of the plaintiff. Three percent of cases were settled at trial. Eleven percent stated that the case was still in process. Five percent stated the case was voluntarily dismissed by the plaintiff prior to trial, and 5 percent stated they were dismissed from the suit within the first few months.   

The most common time period reported for cases was 1 to 5 years. Forty-three percent stated that their cases were settled in 1 to 2 years, and 34 percent stated the cases were settled in 3 to 5 years. Seventeen percent stated that their lawsuits took less than a year, and 7 percent stated the case took more than 5 years.

When asked what they would have done differently, 18 percent stated they would not have taken on the patient in the first place. Twelve percent stated they would have had better dictation. Eight percent stated they would have referred the patient to another physician. Thirty-eight percent stated they would have done nothing differently.


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    About The Author

    • F.J. Thomas

      F.J. Thomas has worked in healthcare business for more than fifteen years in Tennessee. Her experience as a contract appeals analyst has given her an intimate grasp of the inner workings of both the provider and insurance world. Knowing first hand that the industry is constantly changing, she strives to find resources and information you can use.

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