New Study Explores Malpractice Claims Involving Children

Napa, California—March 20, 2019—Misdiagnosis is the main reason for medical malpractice lawsuits involving children, according to a study issued today by The Doctors Company.

A missed, failed, or wrong diagnosis—largely the result of inadequate medical assessments—is the top allegation in claims involving children ages one month to 17 years, and is the second-most common allegation in claims involving infants less than one month old.

The study, issued by the nation’s largest physician-owned medical malpractice insurer, aims to reduce the risk of harm to children by encouraging physicians to collaborate with their colleagues and with hospital leaders to identify areas of system weakness. System failures, such as not notifying treating physicians of critical test results, accounted for a significant number of patient injuries.

The Doctors Company reviewed 1,215 claims closed from 2008 through 2017 that were filed against physicians in many specialties. The report details the allegations, factors that led to injuries, and ways to reduce risk of harm to children. For example, poor communication between the physician and the patient or family was a factor in 15–22 percent of claims, depending on the age of the child.

“Our research sheds light on the need to provide detailed explanations to parents or guardians regarding symptoms that should prompt immediate care when the child is sent home,” noted Darrell Ranum, study author and vice president of patient safety with The Doctors Company. “It is also particularly important that physicians keep language and cultural barriers top of mind when providing these detailed explanations. All our recommendations are focused on advancing the practice of good medicine.”

Texas pediatrician William F. Getman, MD, with the Austin Regional Clinic, said: “This study by The Doctors Company shows that healthcare providers must improve existing strategies, policies, and procedures to limit errors and oversights when treating children.”

He added: “Changes made and strategies adopted as a result of this study’s findings and recommendations will not only reduce the likelihood of a malpractice claim, they will also improve patient care.”

About The Doctors Company
Founded and led by physicians, The Doctors Company ( is relentlessly committed to advancing, protecting, and rewarding the practice of good medicine. The Doctors Company takes the mal out of malpractice insurance by helping hospitals and practices of all sizes manage the complexities of today’s healthcare environment—with expert guidance, resources, and coverage. The Doctors Company is the nation’s largest physician-owned medical malpractice insurer, with 79,000 members and over $4.8 billion in assets, and is rated A by A.M. Best Company and Fitch Ratings. To learn more about data-driven insights and to stay up to date on industry trends, follow and subscribe to The Doctors Company on Twitter (@doctorscompany), YouTube, LinkedIn, and Facebook.