Wash. OIC Releases Med-Mal Report

March 3, 2005

Washington’s Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OIC) has released the results of a survey that analyzes trends in medical malpractice claims for a 10-year period.

The top five medical malpractice insurers, which comprise more than 90 percent of the regulated market for physicians and surgeons, were asked to supply specific closed claim information to the OIC for a 10-year period beginning July 1, 1994 and ending June 30, 2004.

The survey, or data call, collected information on compensation for injuries and the related expenses of defending physicians. Surplus lines carriers and self-insurers that provide malpractice coverage for physicians, such as health care facilities and medical cooperatives, are not regulated by the OIC and did not participate in the data call.

The participating insurers closed 10,073 medical malpractice claims over the 10-year period.

Among the key findings:

* The number of medical malpractice claims increased at an annual rate of 4.9 percent.
* The average amount of compensation per claim increased at an annual rate of 4.1 percent.
* Twenty-seven percent of the claims were closed with an indemnity (compensation) payment to a claimant.
* Sixty-one percent of the claims were closed with defense costs, such as attorney or expert witness fees.
* 3,248 claims were closed without any compensation payments or defense costs.
* Two percent of the total paid claims resulted in compensation payments of over $1 million.
* Claims with defense costs increased at an annual rate of 5.3 percent.
* Defense costs increased at an annual rate of 6.4 percent.
* Sixty-seven percent of the claims that incurred defense costs resulted in no compensation payment.
* Of the 10,073 claims, 50 were decided by a jury in favor of the plaintiff.

“Currently, no claims or settlement reporting requirements exist for medical malpractice insurers,” said Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler. “It’s clear from our experience in conducting this limited survey that we need more reliable claims and settlement information from all of the parties providing medical malpractice coverage. With more accurate and consistent information, we’d be better equipped to assess the health of the market and could make public policy based on facts rather than anecdotes.”

The complete malpractice survey results can be found at www.insurance.wa.gov.

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