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The Center on Lawyers, Civil Justice, and the Media

PROJECT 2: MEDICAL MALPRACTICE CLAIMING IN TEXAS, 1988–2002

The Center on Lawyers, Civil Justice, and the Media has underway a series of empirical studies of tort claims in Texas, 1988–2002, with a special focus on claims involving medical malpractice. The database for these projects consists of more than 150,000 reports of closed insurance claims gathered by the Texas Department of Insurance.

“Empirical studies of important, law-related policy issues do not get much better than this.”
– From the Anonymous Referee Report on “Stability, Not Crisis.”

The first report, entitled "Stability, Not Crisis: Medical Malpractice Claim Outcomes in Texas, 1988–2002," was released in March, 2005. Its authors are Professors Bernard Black and Charles Silver of the University of Texas School of Law, Professor David Hyman of the University of Illinois, and Professor William Sage of Columbia University. The report was accepted for publication in the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies (forthcoming July 2005), a peer-reviewed publication, and will appear in print later this year.

The main findings of "Stability, Not Crisis" are:

  • The number of large paid claims (>$25,000 in 1988 dollars) per year was roughly constant. The number of small paid claims (<$25,000 in 1988 dollars) declined sharply.
  • Mean and median payouts per large paid claim were $528,000 and $200,000, respectively, in 2002 and were roughly constant over time.
  • Roughly 5% of paid claims involved payments over $1 million, with little annual variation.
  • In 2000–2002, there was an average of 4.6 paid claims per 100 practicing Texas physicians per year, down from 6.4 paid claims per 100 practicing physicians per year in 1990–1992.
  • The total number of closed claim files averaged 25 per 100 practicing Texas physicians per year in 2000–2002. Of these, about 80% involved no payout.
  • In 2002, payouts to patients were about $515 million and Texas health care spending was about $93 billion, meaning that malpractice payouts equaled 0.6% of health care spending.
  • Mean and median jury verdicts in trials won by patients were $889,951 and $300,593, respectively, in 2002 and showed no significant upward or downward trend.
  • The sum of payouts and defense cost rose by about 1% per year. Defense costs, which grew 4.4% annually, drove this increase.

More information about the authors

Download the press release.(PDF)

Download "Stability, Not Crisis"

View the press conference at which "Stability, Not Crisis" was released. (video requires Windows Media Player)

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about "Stability, Not Crisis."

Media Coverage of the Study
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Related Links

“Stability, Not Crisis” was funded by the Center on Lawyers, Civil Justice, and the Media, the budget for which is provided by the University of Texas School of Law, and by the Jon David and Elizabeth Epstein Program in Health Law and Policy at the University of Illinois College of Law.