IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this article

Defense Costs and Insurer Reserves in Medical Malpractice and Other Personal Injury Cases: Evidence from Texas, 1988--2004

Listed author(s):
  • William M. Sage
Registered author(s):

    We study defense costs for commercially insured personal injury tort claims in Texas over 1988--2004, and insurer reserves for those costs. We rely on detailed case-level data on defense legal fees and expenses, and Texas state bar data on lawyers' hourly rates. We study medical malpractice ("med mal") cases in detail, and other types of cases in less detail. Controlling for payouts, real defense costs in med mal cases rise by 4.6 percent per year, roughly doubling over this period. The rate of increase is similar for legal fees and for other expenses. Real hourly rates for personal injury defense counsel are flat. Defense costs in med mal cases correlate strongly with payouts, both in ordinary least squares (OLS) and in an instrumental variable analysis. They also correlate with the stage at which a case is resolved, and case duration. Mean duration declined over time. Med mal insurers predominantly use outside counsel. Case-level variation in initial expense reserves predicts a small fraction of actual defense costs. In other areas of tort litigation (auto, general commercial, multi-peril, and other professional liability), defense costs rose by 2.2 percent per year. Defense costs in these cases are predicted by the same factors as in med mal cases, plus the presence of multiple defendants.Insurer reserving practices raise some puzzles. Med mal insurers did not react to the sustained rise in defense costs by adjusting their expense reserves, either in real dollars or relative to reserves for payouts. Thus, expense reserves declined substantially relative to defense costs. In other litigation areas, expense reserves rose along with defense costs. Copyright 2008, Oxford University Press.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

    Article provided by Oxford University Press in its journal American Law and Economics Review.

    Volume (Year): 10 (2008)
    Issue (Month): 2 ()
    Pages: 185-245

    in new window

    Handle: RePEc:oup:amlawe:v:10:y:2008:i:2:p:185-245
    Contact details of provider: Postal:
    Oxford University Press, Great Clarendon Street, Oxford OX2 6DP, UK

    Fax: 01865 267 985
    Web page:

    Order Information: Web:

    No references listed on IDEAS
    You can help add them by filling out this form.

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:oup:amlawe:v:10:y:2008:i:2:p:185-245. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Oxford University Press)

    or (Christopher F. Baum)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.