Medical mistakes and negligence stem from many sources and can be hugely expensive for patients and families. Statistics gathered over the past 13 years paint a picture of what mistakes can happen, how much injured patients can win, and how likely a malpractice suit is to succeed.

What is Medical Malpractice?

In legal terms, medical malpractice exists when a physician or another healthcare provider makes a careless mistake, either doing something they should not have done or failing to do something important. If that mistake results in injury or death there are usually grounds to file a lawsuit. Failing to diagnose an easily detected illness may constitute malpractice too. Here are a few more examples of behaviors that may qualify as malpractice:

• Unnecessary or negligent surgery
• Dangerous medical treatments
• Birth injuries
• Nursing home neglect

Physicians sometimes prescribe drugs that are not approved for the patient's disease or try medical treatments that are not intended for the patient's condition.

Major Causes of Malpractice Claims

Data reveal two main reasons that patients file malpractice claims. For inpatient cases, surgical errors were the reason for 34% of medical malpractice claims. In outpatient cases, the most common source of malpractice complaints was errors in diagnosis.

That data was for the early 2000s. More recently, the reasons for a claim have not changed much. In 2016 for example, diagnostic errors were the cause in 31% of payouts, followed by surgical errors being the cause for 20% of payouts. The average payout in 2016 varied by severity of injury, from just over $1 million for wrongful death to $36,000 for "insignificant injury" cases.

Success Rates in Medical Malpractice Cases

According to statistics on, only 21% of verdicts in medical malpractice cases favor the plaintiff. In settlement discussions, the results favor the plaintiff 61% of the time. The average value of judgments is under $300,000 for cases involving outpatient treatment and $363,000 for cases involving inpatient care. These numbers reflect the reality of filing a malpractice claim. The low success rate at trial in particular points to the need that patients should work with medical malpractice and negligence attorneys.

If you were severely injured due to medical malpractice or if a family member died, the odds of receiving some compensation can be high. Establishing the facts of the case is crucial though, and most awards are not huge.

Author's Bio: 

Lizzie Weakley is a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. She went to college at The Ohio State University where she studied communications. In her free time, she enjoys the outdoors and long walks in the park with her 3-year-old husky Snowball.