California Medical Malpractice: Why Doctors Need To Review Their Coverage Now

California was #1 for medical malpractice payouts in 2022

California medical malpractice statistics show that the state had the largest number of adverse action reports and medical malpractice payouts in 2022, according to the U.S. National Data Practitioner Data Bank.

Additional findings from NPDB indicate that California continues to be one of the top states for the volume of medical malpractice claims, lawsuits, and payouts/settlements in 2023.

That’s why more than ever, our independent brokers at MEDPLI strongly advise California physicians and surgeons to review their medical malpractice insurance policies and carrier choice.

California Medical Malpractice by the Numbers

The data supporting the volume of California’s medical malpractice claims and payouts was analyzed by the National Practitioner Data Bank. The NPDB provides a multiple-year overview of each state’s medical malpractice activity, including the number of Adverse Action Reports (AAR) or claims, and number of Medical Malpractice Payment Reports or payouts/settlements. The data covers 18 unique practitioner titles for a total of 93,179 total unique NPDB practitioners.

California Medical Malpractice Data

1990 to June 30, 2023
All Practitioner Types

Adverse Action Reports 98,430
Medical Malpractice Payment Reports 55,108
Total Payment Amount $7,907.41M*

Physicians Only

Adverse Action Reports 807
Medical Malpractice Payment Reports 648
Total Payment Amount $199.32M

2023 as of June 30
Physicians Only

Adverse Action Reports 255
Medical Malpractice Payment Reports 297
Total Payment Amount $111.94M

*The unique practitioner categories of Physicians and Doctors of Osteopathic accounted for the majority of the Total Payment Amount at $6,957.73M.

California Medical Malpractice by the Numbers

Even looking at the most current NPDB data for California physicians (MDs and DOs) alone, the numbers paint a clear picture of California as a highly litigious state with a higher risk of being sued for medical malpractice.

Why The Higher Volume of California Medical Malpractice Cases?

Several factors may influence allegations of medical malpractice in California. The state has a high concentration of physicians and surgeons to meet the demand for high-risk specialties – including plastic surgery, bariatric surgery, and OB/GYN. The potentially severe intraoperative patient injuries and post-operative complications in these specialty procedures are among the most often cited in medical malpractice allegations.

Also, a patient may now receive a higher jury award if their medical malpractice lawsuit goes to trial. California passed legislation in 2023 to modify California’s Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) by increasing the caps on non-economic damages that juries can award to plaintiffs:

  • $350,000 for non-economic damages in non-death cases. Incremental increases over the next 10 years will raise the cap to $750,000, followed by a 2% annual adjustment for inflation in subsequent years.

  • $500,000 for wrongful death cases. This cap will rise incrementally to $1 million over the next 10 years. The subsequent 2% annual adjustment for inflation will also apply.

  • In California there is still no limit on the amount of compensation a plaintiff can recover for economic damages.

High-Payout California Medical Malpractice Cases

Facing a medical malpractice lawsuit in California without robust malpractice insurance could be financially devastating to your practice. The following are just a few examples of California medical malpractice cases that either went to trial or were settled out of court over the past three years:

$1 Million Pre-Trial Settlement to Patient’s Family

A California man developed cardiogenic shock and coronary artery damage after surgery for an aortic aneurysm. The patient had a stroke and died during the second surgery to repair the artery. The family alleged that the surgeon had inadequate training to perform the high-risk procedure.

$165,884 Jury Award

A female patient in her 90s sued a California orthopedic practice for negligence following surgery for a hip fracture. She alleged that the physician’s assistant neglected to consult her medical history of having frail skin and caused a skin tear by improperly putting her leg in a surgical boot.

$2,000,000 Settlement

A California veterinarian continued to have pain in his left hand despite undergoing three surgeries by two different vascular surgeons for the problem. As a result, he was unable to return to work. The patient alleged that the first surgeon failed to perform a CT angiogram after the second surgery that would have led to better outcome.

Now is the time to ensure that you are protected against financial loss if you are sued for malpractice in California

The volume of California medical malpractice cases and payouts isn’t decreasing, and the passage of legislation for higher non-economic damage caps will likely result in higher medical malpractice premium rates over time. Now is the time to ensure that you are protected against financial loss if you are sued for malpractice in California.

MEDPLI insurance brokers stay current with California’s medical malpractice laws and statutes to ensure that you get the right amount of coverage at the best price for your specialty. We also obtain quotes from the leading California medical malpractice insurance carriers rated “A” by AM Best for their financial solvency and robust legal support of policy-holders.

If you are a California physician or surgeon – or planning to open a practice in California – let MEDPLI be your only trusted broker to help you find robust coverage at the best rate in California.

Whether you need a new policy, a renewal, or tail insurance, our independent MEDPLI insurance brokers will help you secure coverage from an “A” rated carrier for your specialty and practice in California. Have questions? Reach out to an independent MEDPLI insurance broker for answers and a quote now.