Do you want less risk? Become a physician.

The medical profession has always complained about being sued and paying for insurance. That complaint has fueled tort reform efforts and is often blamed for soaring health care costs. But compared to design professionals, medical doctors face less risk of negligence claims, and the risk they do face is more manageable.

A recent study has shown that the number medical malpractice claims requiring indemnity payments has dropped sharply since 2002. And the report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), stated that the compensation payment amounts and liability insurance costs for most doctors remained flat or declined in recent years. The study looked at the years 2002 through 2013 and pointed out that the claims rate in 2013 was 9.9 claims per 1,000 physicians. The claims rate for design firms is about 20 times that.

The cost of paid claims for physicians also has declined to an average of $195,000 in 2013. The average claim payment for design firms in 2013 was about $227,000.

A study by RAND Corporation found out some other interesting facts about the medical profession. For instance, in the states that modified the standard of care expected in emergency rooms so that physicians were only responsible for their gross negligence, the tort reform did not translate into less-expensive care. The findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, pointed out that tort reform that makes it more difficult to sue for medical malpractice neither lowered medical costs nor reduced the “defensive medicine” techniques of physicians, such as the ordering of unnecessary tests. The report stated that part of the rising cost of health care is caused by excessive testing leading to “hundreds of billions of dollars of unnecessary health care spending.” The RAND study found that even though tort reform often provides physicians with “virtual immunity against lawsuits,” physicians often favor resource-intensive care through tests and hospitalization after emergency visits. Studies also have pointed out that recent legal changes now allow physicians to directly profit from requiring testing.

An editorial accompanying the JAMA report did suggest that reforms “that accelerate the recognition of errors and the resolution of disputes are likely to further both monetary and nonmonetary goals of malpractice reform.” The same can be said about reducing claims against construction-related professional service firms.

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