California patients and health care professionals may be interested to learn that malpractice claims have increased in recent years. Growth trends have been attributed to insufficient protections against conflicts of interest as well as an increase in people electing to expand into other practice areas.

In a recent survey on professional liability claims, leading lawyers weighed in on the increased risks of professional liability claims. The new Ames & Gough survey, which is conducted annually, points to an increase in conflicts of interest where malpractice issues can be a concern. Seven of the nine insurers included in the survey indicated that conflict of interest incidents played either a leading or secondary role in malpractice claims. The courts are very invested in cases where conflicts of interest are apparent.

There was no sharp increase in the number of claims filed, but the severity of claims appeared to have increased remarkably. Five insurers reported at least 21 claims being filed. All nine insurers included in the survey reported having reserves of more than $500,000. The number of claims filed at $50 million or more spiked in recent years. Two of the insurers surveyed reported claims valued at more than $100 million or more.

Attorney malpractice claims are risky for all law firms. Law firms that handle a heavy volume of transactions are more vulnerable to these claims. To avoid any appearance of professional malpractice in any area, business owners in California should closely examine areas where there might be a conflict of interest. Consulting with an attorney specializing in professional malpractice can help prevent these risks.