Malpractice awards may be at an all time low in the United States, according to Public Citizen's 2010 report (available here) which was based on data obtained from the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB). The report concludes that the number of malpractice payments made on behalf of doctors in 2010 was the lowest on record since the NPDB began keeping track in 1990. The total number of payments made on behalf of physicians dropped to 10,195 in 2010, down from a high of 16,566 in 2001. The majority of the payments were for injuries resulting in death or permanent injury. Interestingly, although not surprisingly to anyone paying attention to the facts, the costs of health care continue to rise and medical malpractice payments only amounted to 0.13% of overall health care costs. According to the report, total health care costs rose 90% between 2000 and 2010, while medical malpractice payment dropped 11.9%.
One important question that remains unanswered is exactly why was there such a drop in malpractice payments. Obviously, it has not been due to a decrease in medical errors but probably due to a combination of factors including the effects of successful tort reform measures which continue to be approved throughout the states. For recent news on this go to my tort reform section, here. And, of course, Rick Perry, who appears to have taken the lead in the Republican primary, keeps talking about tort reform as a major campaign issue. For a comment on how some of Perry's claims are questionable, go here.