Medical Malpractice Statistics

An Analysis of Payment Data by Field of License

Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare professional fails to meet the accepted standards of the medical profession, causing injury or death to a patient.

When a patient (or their estate) that a medical practitioner failed to meet the standards of their profession, and that the negligence was the cause of the injury or death in question — they can take legal action against the practitioner.

But malpractice doesn’t only happen in the case of severe outcomes like death or permanent injuries; errors as simple as prescribing an incorrect medication might open a provider up to a claim.

What are the most common malpractice allegations? Do they differ depending on the type of medicine being practiced? And what are the outcomes when patients bring claims against their medical providers?

To answer these questions, Youman & Caputo LLC worked with 1Point21 Interactive to analyze data of nearly 300,000 medical malpractice payments dating from 2000 to 2020 collected by the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), an online repository maintained by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The NBPD, which was established by Congress in 1986, contains reports on medical malpractice payments and other “adverse actions related to health care practitioners, providers and suppliers. It was designed to prevent healthcare providers from being able to move from state to state in order to hide knowledge of their previous bad acts or damaging performance.


More than 95% of the malpractice payments in the NPDB were based on claims made against practitioners belonging to 10 license fields:

The most common allegations also fall into 10 different categories:

The visualizations below break down the types of claims made against practitioners in those 10 fields, the most common outcomes suffered by patients making allegations, and the amounts paid out by practitioners.

How to read these charts:

Hover over area to highlight and see the name of license field

Most common allegations by license field

No group made more medical malpractice payments than physicians with MD degrees, who accounted for 70% of all malpractice payments from 2000 to 2020. They were responsible for the largest number of malpractice payouts for every allegation category, including over 80% of the payments for failure to diagnose.

The second most frequent payers were dentists, whose most common payments related to allegations of improper performance or improper technique. Nearly half of the malpractice payments made due to errors by podiatrists were in response to allegations of improper performance, while registered nurses were the most likely group by percentage to face allegations of failure to monitor.

Field highlighted:

Total number of malpractice payments: 53715 Physicians (MD) comprised the largest share of all license fields among top 10 categories of allegations(1) Physician (MD)Improper PerformanceFailure to DiagnoseDelay in DiagnosisImproper ManagementImproper TechniqueFailure to TreatComplication not recognizedFailure to MonitorDelay in TreatmentMisdiagnosis

Explore data:

LicenseAllegationsNumber of paymentsPercent
Physician (MD)Other67,50373%
Physician (MD)Improper Performance34,05363%
Physician (MD)Failure to Diagnose40,54682%
Physician (MD)Delay in Diagnosis18,03587%
DentistImproper Performance12,51023%
Physician (MD)Improper Management15,23078%
Physician (DO)Other4,7335%
Physician (MD)Improper Technique6,67256%
Registered NurseOther3,2604%
Physician (MD)Failure to Treat6,42264%
Physician (DO)Failure to Diagnose4,0898%
Physician (MD)Complication not recognized6,43182%
Physician (MD)Failure to Monitor5,29468%
PodiatristImproper Performance2,4945%
Physician (MD)Delay in Treatment5,89484%
Physician (MD)Misdiagnosis4,71286%
DentistImproper Technique3,46129%
Physician (DO)Improper Performance2,1824%
DentistFailure to Diagnose1,5243%
DentistImproper Management1,8299%
DentistFailure to Treat2,07721%
Physician AssistantFailure to Diagnose1,1042%
Physician (DO)Delay in Diagnosis1,4447%
Nurse PractitionerOther9491%
Physician (DO)Improper Management1,2066%
Registered NurseFailure to Monitor1,27916%
ChiropractorImproper Performance1,3172%
Nurse PractitionerFailure to Diagnose9292%
ChiropractorImproper Technique6405%
Physician AssistantOther8341%
Physician (DO)Failure to Treat6246%
Physician (DO)Complication not recognized4466%
Physician AssistantDelay in Diagnosis3612%
Registered NurseImproper Management3782%
Physician (DO)Failure to Monitor4566%
Registered NurseImproper Performance5261%
Physician (DO)Delay in Treatment4777%
Physician (DO)Improper Technique5004%
PodiatristFailure to Diagnose4701%
DentistComplication not recognized3935%
Nurse PractitionerDelay in Diagnosis3322%
Nurse PractitionerImproper Management2611%
Registered NurseFailure to Treat3814%
Physician (DO)Misdiagnosis3727%
DentistFailure to Monitor2173%
Nurse AnesthetistOther7591%
DentistDelay in Treatment2073%
PodiatristImproper Management2291%
DentistDelay in Diagnosis3322%
Nurse AnesthetistImproper Performance2220%
Registered NurseImproper Technique2232%
Registered NurseComplication not recognized2553%
Nurse PractitionerFailure to Monitor1932%
Nurse PractitionerFailure to Treat2172%
Registered NurseFailure to Diagnose3501%
Registered NurseDelay in Treatment2003%
Physician AssistantImproper Management1561%
Nurse PractitionerImproper Performance2060%
PodiatristImproper Technique1671%
Nurse AnesthetistFailure to Monitor1772%
PodiatristComplication not recognized841%
Physician AssistantFailure to Treat1712%
Registered NurseDelay in Diagnosis1261%
Physician AssistantMisdiagnosis1112%
Nurse AnesthetistImproper Management1421%
Nurse PractitionerDelay in Treatment1041%
Nurse PractitionerComplication not recognized771%
Nurse AnesthetistImproper Technique1061%
Physician AssistantImproper Performance1850%
Nurse PractitionerMisdiagnosis821%
Physician AssistantFailure to Monitor881%
PodiatristDelay in Diagnosis1221%
ChiropractorFailure to Diagnose1560%
Nurse AnesthetistComplication not recognized731%
Physician AssistantDelay in Treatment901%
PodiatristFailure to Treat1241%
ChiropractorImproper Management1151%
Physician AssistantImproper Technique681%
Physician AssistantComplication not recognized631%
ChiropractorFailure to Monitor501%
PodiatristDelay in Treatment591%
Nurse PractitionerImproper Technique530%
ChiropractorDelay in Diagnosis410%
PodiatristFailure to Monitor390%
ChiropractorComplication not recognized290%
PharmacistImproper Management350%
Registered NurseMisdiagnosis240%
ChiropractorFailure to Treat200%
Nurse AnesthetistDelay in Treatment150%
PharmacistImproper Performance200%
Nurse AnesthetistFailure to Diagnose150%
Nurse AnesthetistDelay in Diagnosis90%
PharmacistFailure to Monitor90%
Nurse AnesthetistFailure to Treat80%
PharmacistComplication not recognized70%
ChiropractorDelay in Treatment50%
PharmacistDelay in Diagnosis60%
PharmacistFailure to Diagnose50%
PharmacistImproper Technique40%
PharmacistDelay in Treatment20%
PharmacistFailure to Treat10%
Nurse AnesthetistMisdiagnosis00%


Physicians with MDs were also the most likely to face malpractice payments in claims where their patients died — 5 out of every 6 payouts involving death were made due to claims against MD physicians.

In fact, MDs were the most common payers in every outcome except for insignificant injuries; nearly half of all insignificant injury malpractice payments were linked to dentists.

Physicians with DO degrees were the second most likely practitioner group, behind their MD counterparts, to face claims after their patients either died or suffered permanent injuries.

Field highlighted:

Total number of malpractice payments: 63302(1) Physician (MD)DeathMinor Temporary InjurySignificant Permanent InjuryMinor Permanent InjuryMajor Temporary InjuryMajor Permanent InjuryQuadriplegic, Brain DamageInsignificant InjuryEmotional Injury OnlyCannot Be Determined

Explore data:

LicenseOutcomeNumber of paymentsPercent
Physician (MD)Death52,59183%
Physician (MD)Minor Temporary Injury16,47848%
Physician (MD)Significant Permanent Injury25,60382%
Physician (MD)Minor Permanent Injury19,38568%
Physician (MD)Major Temporary Injury17,73873%
Physician (MD)Major Permanent Injury18,40282%
DentistInsignificant Injury3,25049%
Physician (DO)Death4,7498%
Physician (MD)Quadriplegic, Brain Damage8,45884%
DentistMinor Temporary Injury11,94835%
DentistMinor Permanent Injury5,15018%
DentistCannot Be Determined47318%
Registered NurseDeath2,3634%
Physician (DO)Significant Permanent Injury2,1457%
PodiatristMinor Temporary Injury1,2434%
Physician (DO)Minor Temporary Injury1,1693%
Physician (DO)Minor Permanent Injury1,5015%
Physician (DO)Major Temporary Injury1,2555%
Physician (DO)Major Permanent Injury1,4216%
Physician (MD)Emotional Injury Only2,64968%
Nurse PractitionerDeath1,2442%
DentistEmotional Injury Only51013%
Physician (MD)Insignificant Injury2,59839%
Registered NurseMinor Temporary Injury9133%
Registered NurseMajor Temporary Injury7313%
Physician (MD)Cannot Be Determined1,60260%
Registered NurseMajor Permanent Injury5372%
PodiatristMinor Permanent Injury9443%
PodiatristSignificant Permanent Injury7963%
Physician AssistantDeath9872%
ChiropractorMinor Temporary Injury8603%
PodiatristMajor Temporary Injury6433%
DentistMajor Temporary Injury2,55210%
Registered NurseSignificant Permanent Injury4902%
ChiropractorMinor Permanent Injury4672%
Physician (DO)Quadriplegic, Brain Damage7257%
PodiatristMajor Permanent Injury4892%
ChiropractorMajor Temporary Injury6153%
PharmacistMinor Temporary Injury4841%
DentistSignificant Permanent Injury9533%
Physician AssistantSignificant Permanent Injury4051%
DentistMajor Permanent Injury4902%
Registered NurseMinor Permanent Injury3931%
Nurse PractitionerMajor Permanent Injury4162%
Nurse PractitionerMinor Temporary Injury3741%
Nurse AnesthetistDeath4881%
ChiropractorSignificant Permanent Injury3791%
Registered NurseQuadriplegic, Brain Damage4264%
Physician AssistantMajor Temporary Injury2881%
ChiropractorInsignificant Injury1763%
Physician AssistantMinor Permanent Injury3341%
Physician (DO)Emotional Injury Only1945%
Physician AssistantMajor Permanent Injury3281%
PharmacistInsignificant Injury1723%
ChiropractorCannot Be Determined2519%
Nurse PractitionerMajor Temporary Injury2761%
Physician AssistantMinor Temporary Injury3501%
Registered NurseEmotional Injury Only1594%
Nurse PractitionerSignificant Permanent Injury3431%
Physician (DO)Insignificant Injury1723%
Nurse PractitionerQuadriplegic, Brain Damage1501%
Nurse PractitionerMinor Permanent Injury2651%
ChiropractorEmotional Injury Only1293%
Physician (DO)Cannot Be Determined1084%
ChiropractorMajor Permanent Injury1711%
Registered NurseInsignificant Injury1162%
Nurse AnesthetistQuadriplegic, Brain Damage1101%
PharmacistMajor Temporary Injury1711%
Registered NurseCannot Be Determined662%
Nurse PractitionerEmotional Injury Only862%
Physician AssistantInsignificant Injury561%
Physician AssistantQuadriplegic, Brain Damage1061%
Nurse AnesthetistMinor Temporary Injury1690%
Nurse AnesthetistMinor Permanent Injury1350%
Nurse AnesthetistMajor Permanent Injury1361%
PharmacistCannot Be Determined522%
Nurse AnesthetistSignificant Permanent Injury1130%
PharmacistEmotional Injury Only622%
PodiatristInsignificant Injury491%
PodiatristCannot Be Determined432%
Nurse AnesthetistMajor Temporary Injury850%
Physician AssistantEmotional Injury Only371%
Nurse PractitionerInsignificant Injury481%
ChiropractorQuadriplegic, Brain Damage290%
Nurse PractitionerCannot Be Determined412%
DentistQuadriplegic, Brain Damage230%
Nurse AnesthetistEmotional Injury Only341%
PharmacistSignificant Permanent Injury400%
PharmacistMinor Permanent Injury320%
Nurse AnesthetistInsignificant Injury300%
PharmacistMajor Permanent Injury290%
Physician AssistantCannot Be Determined261%
PodiatristQuadriplegic, Brain Damage150%
PodiatristEmotional Injury Only80%
PharmacistQuadriplegic, Brain Damage60%
Nurse AnesthetistCannot Be Determined30%


The public data available through the NBPD does not contain information about specific amounts of medical malpractice payments, instead grouping payouts in certain ranges to the midpoints of those ranges. We’ve further grouped those payouts into five buckets: $1 to $25,000; $25,001 to $100,000; $100,001 to $500,000; $500,000 to $1 million; and over $1 million.

MD physicians represented the upper end of the payment spectrum; nearly 9 out of 10 of the million-dollar malpractice payments from 2000 to 2020 were made by MDs, as well as more than 80% of the $100,001 to $500,000 and $500,001 to $1 million claims.

Meanwhile, dentists, chiropractors and pharmacists were most likely to have smaller payouts. 85% of the payments made within those licensing fields were $100,000 or less, and more than half were below the $25,000 threshold.

Field highlighted:

Total number of malpractice payments: 115475(1) Physician (MD)$1 - $25,000$25,0001 - $100,000$100,001 - $500,000$500,001 - $1,000,000$1,100,001 - $100,000,000

Explore data:

LicensePayment rangeNumber of paymentsPercent
Physician (MD)$1,100,001 - $100,000,0008,29088%
Physician (MD)$500,001 - $1,000,00029,50786%
Physician (MD)$100,001 - $500,00094,48982%
Physician (MD)$25,0001 - $100,00053,93670%
Physician (MD)$1 - $25,00024,56949%
Dentist$25,0001 - $100,00010,56414%
Physician (DO)$100,001 - $500,0008,0587%
Dentist$100,001 - $500,0004,1114%
Physician (DO)$25,0001 - $100,0004,2876%
Dentist$1 - $25,00017,31635%
Podiatrist$100,001 - $500,0002,2392%
Chiropractor$1 - $25,0001,7473%
Podiatrist$25,0001 - $100,0002,1023%
Registered Nurse$100,001 - $500,0002,2352%
Registered Nurse$1 - $25,0001,7393%
Registered Nurse$25,0001 - $100,0002,0693%
Physician (DO)$1 - $25,0001,7283%
Physician (DO)$500,001 - $1,000,0001,9906%
Nurse Practitioner$100,001 - $500,0001,3631%
Chiropractor$25,0001 - $100,0001,2182%
Pharmacist$1 - $25,0008512%
Physician Assistant$100,001 - $500,0001,2941%
Registered Nurse$500,001 - $1,000,0005972%
Nurse Practitioner$25,0001 - $100,0009661%
Podiatrist$1 - $25,0008252%
Dentist$500,001 - $1,000,0005111%
Chiropractor$100,001 - $500,0008521%
Physician Assistant$25,0001 - $100,0009461%
Nurse Practitioner$500,001 - $1,000,0003961%
Nurse Practitioner$1 - $25,0005991%
Physician (DO)$1,100,001 - $100,000,0004665%
Physician Assistant$500,001 - $1,000,0003771%
Nurse Anesthetist$100,001 - $500,0006601%
Physician Assistant$1 - $25,0005471%
Podiatrist$500,001 - $1,000,0003221%
Registered Nurse$1,100,001 - $100,000,0003624%
Nurse Anesthetist$25,0001 - $100,0003700%
Nurse Anesthetist$500,001 - $1,000,0002291%
Dentist$1,100,001 - $100,000,0001051%
Pharmacist$25,0001 - $100,0002660%
Nurse Anesthetist$1 - $25,0002310%
Chiropractor$500,001 - $1,000,0001891%
Nurse Practitioner$1,100,001 - $100,000,000791%
Pharmacist$100,001 - $500,0001740%
Physician Assistant$1,100,001 - $100,000,000671%
Nurse Anesthetist$1,100,001 - $100,000,000360%
Podiatrist$1,100,001 - $100,000,000190%
Pharmacist$500,001 - $1,000,000380%
Pharmacist$1,100,001 - $100,000,000160%
Chiropractor$1,100,001 - $100,000,00080%

Explore more

Below are more interactive visualizations showing the different kinds of allegations faced by each practitioner type, the patient outcomes in those cases, and the size of the payments rendered as a result of malpractice claims.


Podiatrist Improper Performance Failure to Diagnose Delay in Diagnosis Improper Management Improper Technique Failure to Treat Complication not recognized Failure to Monitor Delay in Treatment Misdiagnosis Other0100 Dentist Improper Performance Failure to Diagnose Delay in Diagnosis Improper Management Improper Technique Failure to Treat Complication not recognized Failure to Monitor Delay in Treatment Misdiagnosis Other0100 Physician (MD) Improper Performance Failure to Diagnose Delay in Diagnosis Improper Management Improper Technique Failure to Treat Complication not recognized Failure to Monitor Delay in Treatment Misdiagnosis Other0100


Podiatrist Death Minor Temporary Injury Significant Permanent Injury Minor Permanent Injury Major Temporary Injury Major Permanent Injury Quadriplegic, Brain Damage Insignificant Injury Emotional Injury Only Cannot Be Determined0100 Dentist Death Minor Temporary Injury Significant Permanent Injury Minor Permanent Injury Major Temporary Injury Major Permanent Injury Quadriplegic, Brain Damage Insignificant Injury Emotional Injury Only Cannot Be Determined0100 Physician (MD) Death Minor Temporary Injury Significant Permanent Injury Minor Permanent Injury Major Temporary Injury Major Permanent Injury Quadriplegic, Brain Damage Insignificant Injury Emotional Injury Only Cannot Be Determined0100


Podiatrist $1 - $25,000 $25,0001 - $100,000 $100,001 - $500,000 $500,001 - $1,000,000 $1,100,001 - $100,000,0000100 Dentist $1 - $25,000 $25,0001 - $100,000 $100,001 - $500,000 $500,001 - $1,000,000 $1,100,001 - $100,000,0000100 Physician (MD) $1 - $25,000 $25,0001 - $100,000 $100,001 - $500,000 $500,001 - $1,000,000 $1,100,001 - $100,000,0000100

Methodology and Data Sources

All data comes from the National Practitioner Data Bank’s database of medical malpractice payment reports from 2000 through 2020.

We grouped the reports by practitioner license, allegation type, patient outcome and payment amount. The NPDB’s public-facing data does not contain specific payment amounts or any other specific information that would identify individual practitioners or payments.

Feel free to republish the information from this story, but if you do, please provide attribution by linking back to this page.