Most medical indemnity claims settled for less than $10,000

Almost 70% of the medical indemnity claims finalised in 2007–08 involved an amount of less than $10,000, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Public and private sector medical indemnity claims in Australia 2007-08, shows just 3% of claims in 2007-08 were settled for $500,000 or more, while in 40% of claims no payment was made, nor costs incurred.

‘For the first time we are able to present the total number of medical indemnity claims across Australia,’ said Ms Jenny Hargreaves of the Institute’s Hospitals and Performance Group.

There were 8,555 medical indemnity claims open in 2007-08, including 2,255 new claims, and 2,675 that were finalised during this period.

Despite the relatively low average amounts associated with settling these claims, medical indemnity cases were often lengthy processes.

‘Nearly one-third of claims took over three years to be settled, and 8% required more than five years,’ Ms Hargreaves said.

Adults were the subject of the majority of claims (about 70%), with female claimants (about 60%) outnumbering men (about 40%).  

The most common allegation of loss related to procedures (about 27% of all claims). The next most common allegations were in relation to diagnosis (about 20% of all claims).

The most common allegation of harm was neuromusculoskeletal and movement-related (about 20% of all claims).

Obstetrics and gynaecology and general practice were the two clinical specialities most associated with incidents that led to a claim, together accounting for one-third of all claims.

Public sector claims were examined in a second report, also released today. Australia’s public sector medical indemnity claims 2007-2008 shows there were almost 1,300 new public sector claims in 2007-08, similar to the number in 2006-07, but a substantial drop (about one-third) compared to the previous three years.

‘Over the five years to 2007–08 the three clinical practice areas with most claims were Obstetrics (14-16%), Accident and Emergency (15-21%), and General surgery (12% in 2007-08 and 2003-04, and 30% in 2005-06). New General surgery claims were prominent in 2005−06 largely due to several claims against one particular general surgeon in that year,’ Ms Hargreaves said.

Canberra, 11 March 2011

Further information: Jenny Hargreaves, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1121, mob. 0407 012 520

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer 02 6244 1032