Recent data on medical malpractice claims showed both good and bad news for physicians – but even the good news wasn’t too promising. According to a paper published this month in the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers found that 95.5% of plaintiffs’ claims never even reach a jury. The court dismisses 54.1% of cases across all specialties, and of the claims that reach the court, physicians win 79.6% of the time.

So why isn’t this great news for physicians? Well, the study also found that cases in which physicians won took an average of 3.25 years to reach a verdict. Cases that favored the plaintiff took even longer.

The researchers based the results on data from outcomes of 10,056 malpractice claims closed from 2002 to 2005 that involved some defense costs. Other findings from the study included:

61.5% of cases against internists and medicine-based subspecialists were dismissed.          36.5% of cases against pathologists were dismissed.
33.3% of litigated claims among internists and medicine-based subspecialists were resolved before a verdict.
4.5% of claims underwent a trial verdict (2% among anesthesiologists and 7.4% among pathologists).

Last month in the New England Journal of Medicine, the same researchers found that physicians hit with malpractice suits spent an average of $23,000 defending themselves, varying with the outcome and the specialty.

See the full study here: Archives of Internal Medicine and  New England Journal of Medicine.