An analysis of almost 250,000 medical malpractice cases has revealed the top five reasons why clinicians practicing internal medicine are sued, according to research published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

After looking at the records of about 250,000 closed medical malpractice claims submitted to the Physician Insurers Association of America between 1985 and 2009, Sandeep S. Mangalmurti, MD, and colleages  extracted data from 33,747 cases involving internal medicine clinicians. They ranked the top five causes, as follows:

  1. Failure to correctly diagnose a patient’s medical condition. Payment resulted in 34% of these types of claims; median payment was $183,300.
  2. Breach of care due to other failures. These types of claims include failure to obtain consent and equipment failure. Although this was a common cause for a lawsuit, the percentage of payouts was relatively low – only 4.8%, with a median payment of $114,150.
  3. Errors in performing a procedure. The median payment in these types of cases was $103,203.
  4. Failure to monitor nurses, physicians assistants, or residents. Almost a third of these types of claims resulted in a pay out to the plaintiff; median payment was $141,875.
  5. Incorrect prescribing or administration of medication. These cases include failing to ask patients about allergies, not monitoring patients on medication which requires monitoring, and prescribing the wrong medication or dosage. About 30% of the claims resulted in payment with an average payment of $89,600.


  1. Mangalmurti S et al. Journal of Internal Medicine. 2014; doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.1116

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