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J Am Coll Radiol. 2004 Jan;1(1):18-22.

The malpractice liability crisis.

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Eisenberg Keefer Breast Center, John Wayne Cancer Institute, Tower-Saint Johns Imaging, Saint Johns Health Center, Santa Monica, CA 90404, USA.


Most medical malpractice cases are tried under the civil tort of negligence and are often triggered by adverse outcomes. These proceedings are aimed primarily at determining whether the conduct of a health care provider was reasonable. Such legal actions have mostly been subject to state jurisdiction. Increasingly, a number of factors are converging that are threatening the continued practice of medicine in some states and hence patients' access to care. These include higher amounts of monetary damages awarded to successful plaintiffs, consequent rising malpractice premiums, and the threatened economic insolvency of medical liability insurance carriers as a result of the broader economic downturn. The result is a serious public health dilemma. The national scope of the problem has been considered a crisis, which has prompted unprecedented federal legislative proposals directed toward providing new and preemptive parameters for capitated noneconomic damages, restrictions on certain civil procedures affecting lawsuit outcomes, and methods for attorney compensation, which some states have either not previously addressed or found unconstitutional. A survey of different states' problems and common issues should assist the reader in understanding the nature of the crisis and proposed solutions.

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