Medical Tort System

 VII. Key Issues: Regulation & Reform >> B. Health Care Regulation >> Medical Tort System (Last update: 8.16.16)


The medical tort system serves both as a compensation mechanism as well as a potential deterrent to medical injury. Clinicians are expected to be more likely to change their behavior if the odds of getting caught increase and/or the financial consequences of negligence increase. States historically have been responsible for establishing and enforcing rules governing tort liability in medical care and other settings. A number of states have adopted major reforms such as caps on non-economic damages or caps on attorneys’ fees. The focus in this section is on measuring the overall cost of the current “system” rather than measure the potential gains from reforming it. In the current system, both facilities and health professionals may be involved in decisions to purchase professional liability insurance. Since it is up to individual patients to decide whether to sue in a given case, not surprisingly a relatively high fraction (98%) of actual victims of negligence opt not to sue. Conversely, less than one in five malpractice claims appear to involve actual negligence (Studdert et al. 2004). The Duke Center for Health Policy has developed a draft working paper assessing the costs and benefits of the medical tort system.


See Gateway page on Medical Errors for a discussion of prevalence, cost and causes of medical errors.

Federal Medical Tort Reform

State Medical Tort Reform

Private Initiatives

Defensive Medicine

One Response to Medical Tort System

  1. You pretty much summed up what the medical tort reform system is. Tort reform has become quite the issue in the medical field. A lot of good doctors have left their jobs because of the way the system works, but the system has also made sure that doctors were accountable for their mistakes. Great read!

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