Does sorry work? The impact of apology laws on medical malpractice


DOI: 10.1007/s11166-011-9126-0

Cite this article as:
Ho, B. & Liu, E. J Risk Uncertain (2011) 43: 141. doi:10.1007/s11166-011-9126-0


Physicians’ apologies for adverse medical events are acknowledged as a factor in patients’ decisions to litigate. Apology laws which render physicians’ apologies inadmissible in court are written to encourage patient-physician communication and to overcome the physicians’ disinclination to apologize because apologies could invite lawsuits. We present a novel model of apologies and malpractice in order to examine whether state-level apology laws have an impact on malpractice lawsuits and settlements. Using a difference-in-differences estimation, we find that apology laws could expedite the resolution process. We also find that apology laws result in the greatest reduction in average payment size and settlement time in cases involving severe patient outcomes.


Apologies Apology laws Medical malpractice Litigation 

JEL Classification

K13 K32 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  2. 2.University of HoustonHoustonUSA

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