Medical Malpractice Liability Crisis or Patient Compensation Crisis?

24 Pages Posted: 16 Oct 2015

See all articles by Kathryn Zeiler

Kathryn Zeiler

Boston University - School of Law

Date Written: August 8, 2009


Tort reform has been a hot topic among those interested in assessing whether and how well the tort system aids injured plaintiffs in achieving civil justice. The debate has been especially heated when it comes to medical malpractice liability. Until recently, rhetoric about the liability system and its relationship to insurance markets and physician supply dominated tort reform debates. While claims made by both proponents and opponents can seem intuitive, they are often unsubstantiated. In recent years, however, academics and others have acquired or created datasets to perform analyses to enhance our understanding of the relationship between the tort system and insurance markets. Such studies have helped shift tort reform debates away from rhetoric and toward inferences drawn from facts. While our ability to assess rhetorical claims has been limited given lack of access to private settlement data, recently discovered datasets collected by state insurance departments have provided a window into settlement outcomes, along with a variety of other features of the liability system and insurance markets. Instead of supporting the claims made by those who blame medical malpractice liability system crises for rising insurance premiums, recent results using closed claims data suggest we might instead be facing a potentially worsening patient compensation crisis.

Keywords: Health Law, Malpractice Liability, Compensation, Tort reform

JEL Classification: I19, K13, K19

Suggested Citation

Zeiler, Kathryn, Medical Malpractice Liability Crisis or Patient Compensation Crisis? (August 8, 2009). DePaul Law Review, Vol. 59, No. 675, 2010, Boston Univ. School of Law, Law and Economics Research Paper No. 15-36, Available at SSRN:

Kathryn Zeiler (Contact Author)

Boston University - School of Law ( email )

765 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States

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