Malpractice 101: Some advice for physicians to avoid trouble

Some practical advice and common-sense tips can help clinicians stay abreast of developments and possible malpractice cases.

In 2009, according to the Physicians Insurers Association of America (PIAA)-a leading insurer trade association representing domestic and international medical professional liability insurance companies owned and/or operated by physicians, hospitals, dentists, and other health-care providers-the total payments awarded for malpractice claims between 1985 and 2009 were $377 million. According to indemnity data collected for the PIAA's Data Sharing Project for 1985 through 2009 from 28 subspecialty groups, ophthalmology ranked 11th in indemnity payments. Neurosurgery was first, and obstetrics/gynecology second. The average payment in all specialties averaged $212,000, with ophthalmology payouts averaging $185,000.

"Although the overall trend in malpractice cases from 1985 through 2009 is in a decline in payments awarded, according to the PIAA, ophthalmologists need to stay vigilant," said Dr. Malouf, clinical assistant professor, ophthalmology and visual sciences, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore.