Which specialties face the highest malpractice premiums? Premiums are a function of the expected cost to insure a physician against potential malpractice suits. Thus, premiums are higher for specialties that have a higher risk of having a claim filed against them or specialties where the average payout conditional on having a claim is higher. A paper by Jena et al. (2011) examines this question.
The graph below describes the likelihood a physician in a given specialty has a claim filed against them. Surgical specialties (e.g., neurosurgery, thoracic-cardiovascular surgery, general surgery, orthopedic surgery and plasitc surgery are the specialties most likely to have a claim filed against them.
The authors conclude the following:
Using physician-level malpractice claims from a nationwide liability insurer, we found substantial variability across specialties in each of these descriptors of liability risk. Specialties in which the largest proportion of physicians faced a claim were not necessarily those with the highest average payment size. For example, physicians in obstetrics and general surgery — both fields that are regarded as high-risk specialties — were substantially more likely to face a claim than pediatricians and pathologists, yet the average payments among pediatricians and pathologists were considerably greater.
- Anupam B. Jena, M.D., Ph.D., Seth Seabury, Ph.D., Darius Lakdawalla, Ph.D., and Amitabh Chandra, Ph.D. Malpractice Risk According to Physician Specialty. N Engl J Med 2011; 365:629-636. August 18, 2011DOI: 10.1056/NEJMsa1012370