Decoding the Data: Medical Malpractice Payouts by State

From analyzing test results to prescribing medications to performing delicate surgical procedures, physicians in all capacities do life-saving work.

But practicing medicine doesn’t always go according to plan. And when it goes awry, there’s one thing you can count on:

A medical malpractice lawsuit.

Where do malpractice allegations happen the most, and which parts of the US have the highest medical malpractice payouts?

Find out in our guide to medical malpractice payouts by state.

Key Takeaways

  • The average medical malpractice settlement in the USA is worth $329,565.
  • With a total of $6.298 billion over the past ten years, the state of New York has the most expensive medical malpractice payouts, while North Dakota has the least expensive, with only $24.89 million.
  • Medical specialty often correlates with medical malpractice incidents, with 90% of surgeons reportedly receiving malpractice claims at some point in their careers.
  • A strong medical malpractice insurance policy helps protect against malpractice claims.

Medical Malpractice Lawsuits: What Every Physician Fears

A medical malpractice claim might hit you in the case your patient suffers harm due to faulty care or any other violation of medical malpractice laws.

In the USA, the value of medical malpractice settlements averages out at $329,565.

Malpractice is one word that no physician ever wants to hear. But it happens all too often.

If a patient suffers harm due to your medical care (or your negligence in providing the proper standard of care), they have the right to sue you for monetary damages. The patient will need to prove their case, and the physician will be able to defend themselves in court.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the average medical malpractice settlement in the USA is worth $329,565.

Learn more: A Physician’s Guide to Protection from Medical Liabilities.

Medical Malpractice Payouts Vary by Region

The total value of malpractice payouts, as well as the total number of medical malpractice cases, greatly vary between US states.

The East Coast region has the highest payouts, while the Midwest has the lowest.

According to the National Practitioner Data Bank, 39.455 billion dollars in total were paid in malpractice claims in the ten years from 2014-2023.

However, some states have seen much higher medical malpractice payments than others, particularly those on the East Coast.

Which States Have the Highest Total Medical Malpractice Payouts?

The state of New York tops the list with payouts totaling 6.298 billion dollars over the ten-year period.

The second highest-paying state is Pennsylvania, with a total of $3.176 billion.

The following states round out the list of the top ten states with the greatest malpractice payouts:

State Malpractice Payout Amount
Florida $3.080 billion
California $2.438 billion
New Jersey $2.373 billion
Illinois $2.336 billion
Massachusetts $1.626 billion
Georgia $1.405 billion
Texas $1.086 billion
Maryland $944.62 million

Which States Have the Lowest Payouts?

The ten states and territories with the lowest total payouts are as follows:

State Malpractice Payout Amount
Idaho $145.06 million
Alaska $138.35 million
Puerto Rico $128.53 million
Delaware $114.92 million
Montana $112.94 million
South Dakota $97.65 million
District Columbia $86.24 million
Wyoming $55.97 million
Vermont $55.11 million
North Dakota $24.89 million

What About the Other States?

Here’s a list of the full medical malpractice statistics collected by the NPDB over the 2014-2023 period for all US states, including Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.

The list includes the total number of medical malpractice claims per state over the period, along with the total payout.

State Malpractice Payout Amount Number of Claims
Alabama $351.86 million 703 claims
Alaska $138.35 million 193 claims
Arizona $698.57 million 1,987 claims
Arkansas $205.61 million 597 claims
California $2.438 billion 11,183 claims
Colorado $391.44 million 1,156 claims
Connecticut $802.62 million 1,378 claims
Delaware $114.92 million 279 claims
District Columbia $86.24 million 185 claims
Florida $3.080 billion 11,247 claims
Georgia $1.405 billion 3,004 claims
Hawaii $196.43 million 366 claims
Idaho $145.06 million 357 claims
Illinois $2.336 billion 3,809 claims
Indiana $591.56 million 2,570 claims
Iowa $297.77 million 695 claims
Kansas $297.80 million 1,435 claims
Kentucky $458.76 million 1,409 claims
Louisiana $625.63 million 2,685 claims
Maine $183.84 million 343 claims
Maryland $944.62 million 2,311 claims
Massachusetts $1.626 billion 2,624 claims
Michigan $735.10 million 3,213 claims
Minnesota $370.64 million 594 claims
Mississippi $201.16 million 701 claims
Missouri $620.64 million 1,833 claims
Montana $112.94 million 380 claims
Nebraska $156.64 million 461 claims
Nevada $262.96 million 895 claims
New Hampshire $259.30 million 487 claims
New Jersey $2.373 billion 5,539 claims
New Mexico $419.76 million 1,171 claims
New York $6.298 billion 14,359 claims
North Carolina $464.38 million 1,432 claims
North Dakota $24.89 million 88 claims
Ohio $877.00 million 2,190 claims
Oklahoma $405.97 million 1,525 claims
Oregon $531.98 million 1,104 claims
Pennsylvania $3.176 billion 7,687 claims
Puerto Rico $128.53 million 2,152 claims
Rhode Island $263.00 million 497 claims
South Carolina $484.78 million 1,583 claims
South Dakota $97.65 million 177 claims
Tennessee $450.87 million 1,330 claims
Texas $1.086 billion 5,583 claims
Utah $238.98 million 826 claims
Vermont $55.11 million 136 claims
Virginia $619.95 million 1,503 claims
Washington $715.73 million 1,709 claims
West Virginia $338.46 million 1,005 claims
Wisconsin $208.12 million 530 claims
Wyoming $55.97 million 142 claims

Are There Caps on Medical Malpractice Payouts?

Only six states in the U.S. impose caps and limitations on how much gets paid out in monetary damages for malpractice.

These states are Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Virginia.

Twenty states have no caps or limits as to how much money gets awarded in a malpractice suit.

It comes as no surprise that some of the states without caps on damages include New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, and New Jersey – the four states that consistently pay the most.

As a physician, where you work dramatically affects your salary.

But it also affects how much your medical malpractice insurance will pay should they find you guilty of malpractice or medical negligence or decide to settle out of court on a malpractice claim.

Related: How Much Does Malpractice Insurance Cost?

What Other Factors Contribute to a Difference in Medical Malpractice Payouts?

The incidence of medical malpractice cases strongly varies between medical specialties, with 90% of surgeons receiving medical malpractice suits at some point in their careers, followed by OBGYNs at 85%.

Apart from the location, the main factor that contributes to medical malpractice payouts is a physician’s specialty.

Depending on your medical specialty, you may be at greater or lower risk for a malpractice claim.

In some specialties, the vast majority of physicians will be sued for malpractice at some point during their careers.

Of all the medical specialties that exist, psychologists and dermatologists find themselves defending against malpractice claims the least.

However, physicians in other specialties have quite a different experience.

Medscape reports that physicians in these specialties get sued for malpractice the most:

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re a cardiologist treating a patient who recently had a heart attack or an oncologist tending to a patient with breast cancer, there is always the risk of something going wrong.

As such, you’re always at risk for a medical malpractice case.

The best way to protect yourself against medical malpractice claims is to have a strong medical malpractice insurance policy.

For more information on malpractice insurance providers, contact Physicians Thrive now.

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