States Most Affected By Medical Malpractice – Forbes Advisor


Updated: Dec 12, 2023, 4:36pm

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Medical malpractice is a common cause of personal injury lawsuits in the United States. Every year, tens of thousands of payments are made on medical malpractice lawsuits, at a cost of billions.

However, these costs are not spread equally. Forbes has gathered state-by-state data about the number of malpractice payments, the number of adverse action reports and cost-of-living adjusted payments per capita. After collating these numbers, the states were ranked in each category.

The state with the highest weighted average was ranked first, and so on. Forbes compared all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

Key Takeaways

  • Medical malpractice is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S.
  • There was no correlation between state population and ranking.
  • Nationally, the U.S. pays out over $184 billion for medical malpractice cases.
  • Medical malpractice payments are approximately $552 per capita in the U.S..
  • There were 288,380 adverse actions in the raw data, resulting in 68,472 medical malpractice payments. That means only 23.74% of complaints resulted in a medical malpractice payment.
  • The highest cost-of-living adjusted payment per capita was $2,124 in Washington, D.C. However, because it ranked low in the other two categories, it ended up almost precisely in the middle of the list.
  • Idaho had the lowest cost-of-living adjusted payment per capita, at $231.

States With the Most Medical Malpractice Problems

Because Alaska and Connecticut tied for 10th place, there are 11 entries in this list of the states most affected by medical malpractice. Each of these states was among the top 10 of at least one metric that was considered, though no state was among the top 10 for all three.

There are few patterns among the states with the most medical malpractice problems, except that the majority are East Coast states, and none are located on the West Coast. Here are additional takeaways about the states with the most medical malpractice problems:

  • While New York ranked first for the number of medical malpractice payments, it ranked second to last for the number of adverse action reports. This disparity means more people received payments than took action against healthcare providers.
  • West Virginia ranks first in this report, with payouts of over $1.5 billion during the years considered.
  • Louisiana ranked first for adverse reports. It missed out on ranking first overall primarily because medical malpractice payments per capita were roughly half those in West Virginia.
  • The two states that tied, Alaska and Connecticut, could not be more different in terms of demographics or state government policies. This is apparent in the large disparities in how these states ranked in the three categories considered.
  • Except for Kansas and Louisiana, every state in the top 10 had a cost-of-living adjusted payment per capita higher than the average of $552.
  • The top 11 states on this list have a combined population of almost 91 million, representing roughly 27% of the population of the United States.
  • Six states of the top 11 ranked in the bottom half of adverse action reports, and Maryland, at No. 25, just missed ranking in the bottom half.
  • Alaska is the only state in the top 11 that ranked in the bottom half of medical malpractice payment reports, at No. 27.
  • No state in the top 11 ranked in the bottom half for cost-of-living adjusted medical malpractice payments per capita.

States That Pay the Most in Medical Malpractice Payments

The following are the states that paid the most total money in medical malpractice during the years considered. These numbers do not take population into account, though they are roughly correlated with the states with the highest population. Every state with a population higher than 10 million is found on this list other than Georgia, North Carolina and Michigan (Georgia just missed at No. 11).

Other interesting takeaways from this data are:

  • The total payments in New York were more than the next two states (California and Pennsylvania) combined, despite those states having over double the population of New York.
  • California and Texas have the lowest cost-of-living adjusted payment per capita values of the states on this list, but they still make the top 10 due to their high respective populations.
  • The states on this list represent roughly 170 million people, which is over 50% of the total population of the United States.
  • Texas is the lowest-ranked state in this top 10 at No. 47. Pennsylvania is the highest-ranked at No. 3.
  • The top 10 states account for roughly $135 million of medical malpractice payments. That is almost 80% of all money spent on medical malpractice in the U.S. Furthermore, the top four states represent almost half of all money spent on medical malpractice.

States With the Least Medical Malpractice Problems

While the states that are least affected by medical malpractice problems are spread throughout the country, none are located in the Northeast. This is at least partially due to the high cost of living in those states; overall, states in the Northeast U.S. have higher-than-average costs of living. Some other highlights from the bottom 10 are:

  • Idaho—with low rankings in all three categories, including the lowest cost-of-living adjusted medical malpractice payment per capita—easily takes the bottom spot on the list.
  • Wisconsin ranked lowest for total medical malpractice payments but came in No. 49 on the list because of a relatively high number of adverse action reports.
  • Even though Hawaii had the fewest adverse action reports per capita, it missed making the bottom 10 due in great part to having the highest cost of living.
  • The 10 states with the least medical malpractice problems have a total population of roughly 71 million, representing roughly 21% of the U.S. population.
  • Alabama is the only state in the bottom 10 that ranks in the top 10 of a category. It is No. 9 for the number of adverse action reports.
  • Four of these 10 states rank in the top half for adverse action reports, with three more (Utah, South Dakota and Minnesota) just missing the top half.
  • South Dakota is the only state in the bottom 10 where the cost-of-living adjusted medical malpractice payment per capita is over $300.
  • Texas has a population roughly equal to almost every other state in the bottom 10 combined (excluding North Carolina).
  • North Dakota had the fewest total medical malpractice payment reports during the time considered, with 55.
  • Every state in the bottom 10 ranked in the lower half for the number and cost of medical malpractice payments per capita.

State-by-State Ranking for Medical Malpractice Problems

The state-by-state rankings provide a complete picture of how medical malpractice affects the average person and what factors are most prevalent in each state. For example, the data show that medical malpractice incidents in Oregon are high even though the number of payments and the value of those payments are much lower.

A close analysis of this data may reveal unexpected patterns, either purely based on information in this chart or when compared to additional data for the years examined.

Our Methodology

To determine the states that suffer the most from medical malpractice, the Forbes Advisor team examined three key metrics, including adverse action reports, medical malpractice and medical malpractice payments from 2017 through the first half of 2023. Each metric listed below was given an individual weight to provide every state with a score scaled out of 100.

Adverse Action Reports per 100,000 Residents – 25% of score
This metric accounts for how many reports were made to take action against a physician, dentist or other healthcare practitioner.

Medical Malpractice Payment Report per 100,000 Residents – 40% of score
This metric accounts for how many medical malpractice reports resulted in a payment from the health practitioners per 100,000 residents.

Cost-of-living Medical Malpractice Payment per Capita – 35% of score
This metric shows how much money has been paid out for medical malpractice cases in each respective state per capita.

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Sarah Edwards is a seasoned legal writer with more than a decade of experience. Edwards has a deep understanding of advanced legal concepts and a knack for conveying complex topics in simple language. She currently resides in Southern California with her husband and two children.

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