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Medical Malpractice Insurance in Illinois

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By: Timothy Tomasik

Over the last 25 years, a doctor’s assets in a medical malpractice action have almost never been at stake.  The Illinois Trial Lawyers’ Association has studied insurance data and has definitively shown that the “lawsuit crisis” is a myth.  Medical malpractice is a leading cause of death and injury in the United States, injuring an estimated 180,000 and killing tens of thousands of Americans annually.  Preventing malpractice in the first place is the best way to avoid malpractice litigation.[1]

Experts studying medical malpractice insurance companies have concluded that “while insurers and other tort reforms proponents blame malpractice litigation for the hard market premium increases, they are in fact consistently driven by the insurance companies’ response to the broader economic cycle.”[2]  State insurance regulators, including the former acting director of the Illinois Division of Insurance, agree.[3]

Contrary to popular myth, very few injured Americans file lawsuits.  In fact, a majority of cases in our courts today involve businesses suing other businesses, and businesses suing individuals.[4]

The number of all civil cases filed in Illinois Courts has been steadily declining since 2007, down 26%.[5]  The number of medical malpractice cases in Illinois has been on a steady decline over the past decade, down nearly 40% since 2003.[6]  In 2013, ISMIE Mutual Insurance Company, the State’s largest medical malpractice insurer, had record profits of $80,000,000, up by $23,000,000 (40%) from the previous year.[7]

Further, wide spread antidotes and fabrications about doctors fleeing Illinois are contrary to the facts.  Despite claims that doctors are leaving Illinois, the number of physicians licensed and engaged in patient care in Illinois has never declined.[8]

In 2005, our legislature passed insurance reform which directly addressed the issues of abuses in the insurance industry, which have been a major factor in leading to higher insurance rates.  The long suppressed insurance reforms contained in this legislation have resulted in a 5.2% reduction (3.5% initially ordered by Michael McRaith, Director of the Illinois Department of Insurance, on March 15, 2006) of malpractice premiums and should be heralded as taking a very necessary step in protecting doctors and patients.  The law forced malpractice insurance companies to provide greater transparency of rates, claims, and payouts that has in turn spurred competition, motivated more companies to enter the market place, and lowered premiums for doctors.  Thanks to the insurance reforms, Michael McRaith said, “for the first time in the history of the state, [malpractice] insurance companies that want to compete for business in Illinois have access to actuary information and loss and claims data.  We see more companies coming in and a stabilization or decline in actual rates.”[9]

The truth is that the public debate must shift to the need for insurance reform to protect doctors, not blocking access to justice for victims of negligence.


[1] “The whole truth about medical malpractice,” February 2010, Keith Hebeisen.

[2] Geoff Boehn, Debunking Medical Malpractice Myths: Unraveling the False Premises Behind “Tort Reform,” 5 Yale J. Health Policy L. & Ethics 365 (2005). [3] House Judiciary Hearing, March 1, 2005, at 7 (Manna Testimony); Senate Proceedings, March 1, 2005 at 32. [4] Center for Justice & Democracy, Tort Litigation and Juries: By the Numbers (2012) [5] “Annual Report of the Illinois Courts, Statistical Summary,” 2007 – 2011. [6] Collar County Medical Malpractice New Suits, “Law Bulletin Publishing Company, Reflecting Filings Through 2012 in 20 Illinois Counties, including, Cook, DuPage, Lake, Kendall, Kane, Madison, St. Clair and Will.” [7] ISMIE Mutual Insurance Company Annual Reports. [8] Physicians Characteristics and Distribution in the U.S. Various Additions, American Medical Association.
[9] See February 20, 2010, Statement from the Director of Insurance urging insurers to comply with 2005 insurance reforms.
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