Medical errors are consistently listed in the top causes of death in the United States.

Medical malpractice claims in Michigan parallel those in the remaining 49 states, the District of Columbia, and United States territories. In Michigan as in the rest of the United States, the most common medical malpractice claims are diagnosis-related, and the largest payments arise from birth injury claims. Michigan’s unique contribution to the development of medical malpractice claims is the “Michigan Model,” a disclosure and restitution method developed at the University of Michigan. Efforts by other US states to codify this model through “apology laws” have proven unsuccessful, however, when the apology requirements do not also protect disclosure of error data.


21 percent

of patients report having experienced a medical error

Michigan Medical Malpractice

Most medical errors are preventable. However, the healthcare system in the United States prioritizes speed and efficiency. This can result in patients dying from preventable medical errors, and over a million more suffer injuries that impact them the rest of their lives.

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Data Collection: Data in this report was gathered from several sources, including the American College of Surgeons, the American Hospital Directory, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the Michigan Legislature, Michigan State University, the National Institutes of Health, and several medical journals.

Medical Malpractice Overview

What is Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice occurs when medical providers fail to meet the standard of care that an ordinarily, prudent provider would use in the same situation.

Medical malpractice stems from medical errors, but not all medical errors rise to the level of malpractice. Nonetheless, medical errors are common in US hospitals and clinics, and errors can result in serious harm.

The most common medical errors in the US include:

Some medical errors are not the result of individual recklessness or malevolence. Rather, they stem from processes and systems that make errors more likely. These may include:

  • Ineffective communication routes, so essential information doesn’t make it to the right provider at the right time.
  • Typos and other errors that result in miscalculations.
  • Inefficient storage and handling of medications and equipment that makes errors more likely.
  • Fatigue or cognitive lapse, often from understaffing.
Michigan Medical Care Overview

Hospital Safety in Michigan and Detroit

Michigan has approximately 25,740 hospital beds available statewide, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. These include about 23,743 adult hospital beds and about 1,089 pediatric beds, as well as beds reserved for post-surgical recovery and outpatient care.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) hospital safety rankings evaluate hospitals based on their ability to provide safe patient care and avoid negligence. Hospitals are ranked on a 1 to 10 scale. Those that receive a ranking under 6.75 are penalized with a decrease in Medicare funding. Top hospitals for patient safety in Michigan, according to CMS, include:

Top rated Michigan hospitals

Hospitals with Poor Safety Records

Several highly-ranking hospitals, including Harper University Hospital and Doctors’ Hospital of Michigan, are located in the Detroit metro area. Several low-ranked hospitals, including many penalized for their failure to meet patient safety standards, are also present in the Detroit area. These include:

  • Karmanos Cancer Center, Detroit: 6.25
  • William Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak: 6
  • Oakland Regional Hospital, Southfield: 6
  • Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, West Bloomfield: 4.75
Strengths and Weaknesses in Michigan’s Health Care Systems

In 2022, Michigan ranked in the top 20 US states on several measures of health, according to
America’s Health Rankings. 4 Strengths of Michigan’s health care systems include:

  • Non-smoking regulation (1st),
  • COVID-19 and flu vaccination rates (9th),
  • Preventive clinical services (13th), and
  • Access to clinical care (15th).

Michigan also demonstrated weaknesses in its care systems. Weaknesses that increase the
risk of medical malpractice may include:

  • Frequent mental distress among patients, especially older patients (50th),
  • Preventable hospitalizations (45th),
  • Inadequate home health care staff (29th), and
  • Poor nursing home quality (26th).
Featured Result


Settlement for anesthesiology malpractice resulting in hypoxic brain injury

Michigan hospitals health ratings

Work remains to be done in Michigan clinics and hospitals to protect patients from harm caused by medical negligence.

Featured Result


Settlement on behalf of a child for treatment delays

Proving Malpractice

Medical Malpractice Claims

In Michigan, a party seeking to prove a medical malpractice claim must demonstrate that four factors exist:

  • The existence of an applicable standard of care,
  • Breach of that standard of care,
  • Injury, and
  • The fact that the breach was a foreseeable cause (proximate cause) of the injury.

To recover damages in a medical malpractice case, plaintiffs must also demonstrate that their injury resulted in some form of loss compensable by damages. Common losses include medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Diagnostic errors

33 percent

Diagnosis errors include misdiagnosis, failure to diagnose, reading test results incorrectly, and other errors.

Surgery Errors

23 percent

Such errors can include failure to diagnose a medical condition during surgery, wrong site surgery, and damaging organs during surgery, among others.

Treatment errors

18 percent

Treatment errors can include equipment failure, failure to provide prophylactic treatment, burns and improper transfusions.

Birth injury & obstetrics errors

10 percent

80 percent of birth injury lawsuits involve “high severity” injuries, causing long-term
harm to the child.


Medication errors are another common type of medical negligence

Medication errors happen more often than you may suspect. For example:

  • 100,000 reports enter the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) system each year,
    reporting medication errors.
  • 41 percent of Americans report either experiencing a medication error or knowing a
    family member or friend who has experienced one.
  • 7 million patients experience medication errors each year.
  • 10 percent of hospital patients experience at least one medication error.
  • 20 percent of medication doses given in hospitals may contain a medication error.
  • 1.5 percent of pharmacies commit dispensing errors.
  • 530,000 patients are injured in outpatient clinics yearly due to medication errors.

Researchers suspect that medication errors are underreported. The actual rate of medication
errors may be far higher than the rate of patient injury or hospital reporting suggests.


Patients report experiencing medication errors every year

20 percent of medication doses given in hospitals may contain a medication error.

Birth Injury Claims
The birth of a child can be a delicate and difficult process, making it a common source of medical errors.

In 2020, over 97,000 expectant parents visited a Michigan hospital for help with labor and
delivery. And, over 284,000 separate procedures occurred in Michigan hospitals during patients' labor and delivery processes.

Delivery-related procedures

Many of these procedures are essential for safe delivery. Fetal monitoring, for example, checks a baby's heart rate, oxygen levels, and other vital signs during labor and delivery. Proper fetal monitoring allows labor and delivery teams to identify potential sources of fetal distress, so they can intervene before a birth injury.

Other common procedures included inserting catheters or spinal stimulators, inducing labor, and using tools like forceps to assist with delivery.

Unfortunately, some procedures may increase the risk of a birth injury, especially if performed incorrectly.

The most common procedures include:

  • Fetal monitoring (15.7 percent of procedures)
  • Repair of an obstetric laceration (14.2 percent)
  • Manually assisted deliveries (14.2 percent)
  • C-sections (12.9 percent), and
  • Artificial rupture of membranes, such as breaking water, to assist delivery (12.3 percent).

A 2021 study found that both parents and newborns suffered more complications and longer recovery times when forceps were used during the delivery process. Forceps use has been linked to higher rates of several injuries, including certain brain injuries and even eye injuries. Alternatives to forceps include using vacuum-enabled tools to pull the baby out. These tools may pose their own birth injury risks.

Frequency of birth and delivery procedures

The number of birth-related procedures performed in Michigan each year is much higher than the number of patients who need assistance with a birth. Many patients require more than one procedure to help them safely deliver a healthy child.

It is not uncommon, for example, for a patient to need fetal monitoring to spot potential distress while also needing help with getting the baby in the right position for delivery - or for an urgent need to perform a c-section to arise.

Birth Injury Statistics
Many parents and babies experience a successful delivery and a healthy recovery. Some, however, do not.

Many cases of birth injury are avoidable. In fact, many of the most common birth procedures, including fetal monitoring, are specifically designed to address risks and prevent birth injuries. When these procedures are neglected or performed improperly, however, serious harm may result. Some common claims include:

Birth injury claim statistics

The top four types of negligence asserted in these claims include:

  • General negligence during labor and delivery
  • Failure to perform adequate fetal monitoring to identify fetal distress
  • Failure to administer adequate medications to parent, child, or both
  • Failure to recognize an emergent situation or to act promptly to prevent harm.
Michigan law divides damages up into two categories: economic and non-economic.
  • Economic damages:
    Those damages that can readily have a dollar amount assigned to them are considered economic damages. These include past and future medical expenses, lost wages and decreased earning capacity, care giving expenses, and other out-of-pocket expenses.
  • Non-economic damages:
    Medical mistakes frequently result in physical pain and suffering and emotional trauma. These damages - while potentially very detrimental to a patient's way of life - are difficult to quantify in terms of dollars and cents. Thus, these damages are referred to as non-economic damages.

In Michigan, there is no maximum on economic damages.

In Michigan, there is no limit on the amount of economic damages you can recover in a medical malpractice case. In 1994, Michigan enacted a $280,000 cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice claims. For catastrophic and disabling injuries, the cap was set at $500,000. This cap adjusts for inflation annually. In 2022, the Michigan Department of Treasury adjusted the lower cap to $497,000 and the upper cap to $887,500. The upper cap applies to the following situations:

  • The medical negligence renders the patient a hemiplegic, paraplegic, or quadriplegic resulting in a total permanent functional loss of one or more limbs caused by injury to the brain or spinal cord;
  • The medical negligence impaired a patient's cognitive capacity rendering him or her incapable of making independent, responsible life decisions and permanently incapable of independently performing the activities of normal, daily living; or,
  • The medical negligence resulted in permanent loss of or damage to a reproductive organ resulting in the patient's inability to procreate.


of birth injury lawsuits involve “high severity” injuries, causing long-term harm to the child

Hospital-Related Negligence Claims

Over 1,000,000 patients are admitted to Michigan hospitals every year.

Hospitals are not the only locations in which medical malpractice may occur. Yet hospitals are more likely to be sites of medical negligence due to the sheer number of patients, caregivers, procedures, and information flowing through them on any given day. In 2020, Michigan hospitals admitted 1,074,727 patients. The top five most common causes of hospital admissions were:

  • Heart diseases
  • Newborns and neonates
  • Patients giving birth
  • Injuries and poisoning
  • Septicemia

COVID-19 ranked sixth as a cause of hospital admissions. Other causes of hospitalization included cancer, diabetes, mood, and psychological disorders, and renal failure.

Hospital Readmissions

Hospital readmissions are expensive. The average cost of readmission for elderly patients is $13,800, or $700 more than the average cost of their initial admission. Medicare spends about $26 billion annually on hospital readmissions.

Michigan sees patients readmitted to its hospitals at a rate of about 16 per 1,000 patients — approximately the same rate as the nationwide average.

Overall, Michigan ranked 20th in the United States in 2022 for its rate of hospital readmissions.

Hospital readmission numbers measure the quality of care in a health system. When the quality of care is high, patients who are discharged from the hospital don't need to return. They have the health and support they need to continue healing at home. When the quality of care is low, patients are more likely to experience complications that force them to return to the hospital.

Medical Negligence Resulting in Death

A meta-analysis of patient input studies performed by Yale School of Medicine and published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine estimates the number of preventable deaths due to medical negligence at roughly 22,000 a year. That is fewer deaths than often cited in medical negligence statistics but still 22,000 too many.

The costs of medication errors alone are profound. In the US:

  • 7,000 to 9,000 deaths occur each year due to medication errors, making these errors the eighth leading cause of death in the United States.
  • 1.3 million injuries occur each year due to medication errors.

Worldwide, medication errors account for nearly one percent of all money spent on healthcare.

Medication errors


Over 7 million patients are affected by medication errors each year.

Malpractice Lawsuits in Michigan

As in other states, Michigan allows injured patients to recover both economic and non-economic damages.

Economic damages cover quantifiable losses, such as additional medical costs and lost wages. Non-economic damages cover non-quantifiable losses, including pain and suffering.

Michigan law requires injured parties to provide written notice of intent to file a claim before they file a medical malpractice lawsuit.

The injured person or “claimant” must provide this notice at least 182 days before the malpractice lawsuit commences. In some instances, the notice period is shortened to 91 days.

During this pre-suit notice period, the claimant must share certain information with the healthcare provider they intend to sue. This information includes medical records the provider would not have otherwise.

Healthcare Providers

The healthcare provider must provide a written response stating:

  • The factual basis for the provider’s defense to the claim,
  • The standard of practice or care that applies to the claim, in the provider’s opinion,
  • A description of how the provider complied with that standard,
  • An explanation of how the provider’s actions were not the proximate or foreseeable cause of the claimant’s injuries.
The affidavit

An affidavit of merit, signed by a health professional must accompany a complaint for medical malpractice filed in a Michigan court. The affidavit must include:

  • The standard of practice or care that applies to the claim,
  • A statement of the health professional’s opinion that the standard of care was breached,
  • A description of the actions that should have been taken or avoided to meet the standard of care,
  • An explanation describing how the failure to meet the standard of care was the proximate cause of the claimant’s injuries.

The health professional who signs the affidavit must meet Michigan’s requirements for expert witnesses in medical malpractice claims.

Compensation and Payments
How does Michigan compare to medical malpractice claims nationwide?

Payments were made in 244 Michigan cases in 2022. In total claims, Michigan ranked 10 of 59 US states and territories; in per capita claims, Michigan ranked 28 of 59.

The most common medical malpractice claims in the United States in 2020 were failure to diagnose and improper performance. These were also the top two bases for medical malpractice claims in Michigan in 2020.

Evidence suggests that the outcome of medical malpractice claims correlates closely with the actual quality of care received, as evaluated by other physicians. A study published in Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research reviewed twenty years’ worth of medical malpractice case outcomes. The study found that:

  • 80 to 90 percent of jury trials with weak evidence of medical malpractice ended in favor of the defendant,
  • 70 percent of jury trials with “borderline” evidence ended in favor of the defendant, and
  • 50 percent of jury trials with strong evidence ended in favor of the defendant.

A strong correlation between settlement amounts and quality of care also existed. Patients with stronger evidence of negligence were more likely to receive a settlement offer. They also received higher settlement offers than patients with weaker claims.

Disclosure, apologies, and medical malpractice

Does early disclosure and discussion reduce the rate of medical malpractice claims? Research from the University of Michigan indicates the answer may be yes.

In the early 2000s, the University of Michigan Health System (UMHS) adopted an “open disclosure with offer” model to address medical errors. UMHS focused on honesty and transparency in communication surrounding medical errors. As UMHS practiced the new model, it saw decreases in the number of medical negligence claims levied against its offices and providers.

Today, UMHS’s approach is known as the Michigan Model. The Michigan Model focuses on two main points:

  • Early disclosure of errors offers the best opportunity to address them and improve safety, and
  • A focus on financial or legal risk in the short term hinders long-term progress toward improved patient safety and lowered error rates.

The Michigan Model represents a radical change from traditional "deny and defend" models, in which health care providers deny responsibility for patient harm. In these traditional models, providers insist they're not responsible for patients' suffering and refer the case to their attorneys. Often, a complex legal process ensues to address a question that might have more easily been addressed at the moment - if the provider had been willing to have a frank conversation.

In many ways, Michigan's experience with medical malpractice parallels that of other US states.

Like many other states, Michigan caps non-economic damages in medical malpractice claims, tying those caps to inflation rates. Michigan also requires pre-lawsuit notices and other steps, which are also similar to those in other states. Michigan's most common allegations in medical malpractice claims are tied to diagnosis errors and its highest payments in these claims tend to be linked to birth injuries - two trends that repeat across the nation.

Contact an experienced Michigan medical malpractice injury law firm
To learn more, and to speak with an attorney about your situation today, call 866-826-1793 for immediate assistance.

Medical errors are surprisingly common. Medical malpractice law can be complex. If you or someone you love has been injured during medical care and you suspect negligence is to blame, speak to an experienced Michigan medical malpractice attorney at once. The team at Sommers Schwartz, PC is dedicated to representing our clients with experience in handling medical malpractice claims. Contact us today to learn more.