Sorry is Never Enough: The Effect of State Apology Laws on Medical Malpractice Liability Risk

45 Pages Posted: 12 Dec 2016  

Benjamin J. McMichael

Vanderbilt University - Owen Graduate School of Management

R. Lawrence Van Horn

Vanderbilt University - Strategy and Business Economics

W. Kip Viscusi

Vanderbilt University - Law School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Vanderbilt University - Department of Economics; Vanderbilt University - Owen Graduate School of Management; Vanderbilt University - Strategy and Business Economics

Date Written: December 10, 2016

Abstract

State apology laws offer a separate avenue from traditional damages-centric tort reforms to promote communication between physicians and patients and to address potential medical malpractice liability. These laws facilitate apologies from physicians by excluding statements of apology from malpractice trials. Using a unique dataset that includes all malpractice claims for 90% of physicians practicing in a single specialty across the country, this study examines whether apology laws limit malpractice risk. For physicians who do not regularly perform surgery, apology laws increase the probability of facing a lawsuit and increase the average payment made to resolve a claim. For surgeons, apology laws do not have a substantial effect on the probability of facing a claim or the average payment made to resolve a claim. Overall, the evidence suggests that apology laws do not effectively limit medical malpractice liability risk.

Keywords: Medical malpractice, apology law, tort reform, litigation

JEL Classification: I18, K13, K41

Suggested Citation

McMichael, Benjamin J. and Van Horn, R. Lawrence and Viscusi, W. Kip, Sorry is Never Enough: The Effect of State Apology Laws on Medical Malpractice Liability Risk (December 10, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2883693 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2883693

Benjamin J. McMichael (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Owen Graduate School of Management ( email )

401 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203
United States

Ray Lawrence Van Horn

Vanderbilt University - Strategy and Business Economics ( email )

Nashville, TN 37240
United States

W. Kip Viscusi

Vanderbilt University - Law School ( email )

131 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-1181
United States
615-343-7715 (Phone)
615-322-5953 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://law.vanderbilt.edu/faculty/viscusi.htm

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Vanderbilt University - Department of Economics

Box 1819 Station B
Nashville, TN 37235
United States
(615) 343-7715 (Phone)
(615) 343-5953 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://law.vanderbilt.edu/faculty/viscusi.htm

Vanderbilt University - Owen Graduate School of Management

401 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203
United States
(615) 343-7715 (Phone)
(615) 343-5953 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://law.vanderbilt.edu/faculty/viscusi.htm

Vanderbilt University - Strategy and Business Economics ( email )

Nashville, TN 37203
United States

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