The Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions & Professional Registration (DIFP) each year releases an annual Missouri Medical Malpractice Insurance Report. The MO Department of Insurance has collected data on Missouri medical malpractice claims and Missouri medical malpractice insurance companies for more than 30 years. This is important data for physicians, hospitals, and insurance companies because it shows how claim frequency and severity fluctuates from year to year. Detailed information about malpractice insurance companies is also included.
The 2011 Missouri Medical Malpractice Insurance Report is the most recent available and was published in November 2012. As expected, the number of new claims reported was down slightly in 2011 to 816 from 923 in 2010. The state has experienced this downward trend since 2005, when 1,512 new claims were reported. The spike in new claims reported in 2005 was largely due to a medical malpractice tort reform bill that was passed that year.
Not only did the number of new claims reported decrease, but the incurred claim costs were down from $52.8 million in 2010 to $41 million in 2011. While this is true, the average award per claimant actually increased to $300,955, but this is most likely because the number of claimants receiving awards has declined sharply. The factors affecting the cost of claims are mostly lost wages and incurred medical costs, which, according to the report, have increased more rapidly than general inflation. It is also important to remember that malpractice cases are not closed for several years, so awards paid out are typically from claims reported in previous years.
Statistics in the 2011 report state that one-third of all claims were for “adverse surgical outcomes,” which accounted for about the same amount of awards paid. Other allegations reported were in the categories of Diagnosis, Patient Safety, Medication, Pregnancy & Childbirth, and Anesthesia.
The declining number of malpractice claims in the state has created a climate that is favorable for medical malpractice insurance companies. In recent years the stable environment and the established tort reforms have encouraged more insurance companies to offer medical malpractice insurance at reduced rates. According to the DIFP report, there are more choices now for malpractice insurance in Missouri than in previous years, and companies have returned a profit for an eighth consecutive year.
In 2012 the $350,000 cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases was ruled unconstitutional by the Missouri Supreme Court (Watts vs. Cox). However, some Missouri lawmakers are working to initiate new legislation that might reinstate the limit through a constitutional amendment.