Medical science brings innovations in patient care at an astounding pace today - new chemotherapeutic agents, coated stents, and minimally invasive surgery are just few recent examples. For physicians, though, the specter of malpractice liability can overshadow the marvel of practicing in this era. Many physicians are working in a volatile liability environment; they face spiraling costs for malpractice insurance, have difficulties purchasing liability coverage at any price, and see record payouts in a growing number of claims against their colleagues. The American Medical Association (AMA) has declared that at least 20 states are currently in a malpractice “crisis,” with another 24 states showing early signs of an impending crisis.
There have been two comparable periods of instability in the last thirty years, but these predecessor crises differ from the current one in important ways. First, while physicians mainly experienced dwindling options for obtaining coverage in the mid-1970s (i.e., availability) and exorbitant prices in the mid-1980s (i.e., affordability), the current crisis appears to have elements of both availability and affordability.