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Free AccessScientific Investigations

Medical malpractice litigation and daylight saving time

Published Online:https://doi.org/10.5664/jcsm.11038

Abstract

Study Objectives:

Daylight saving time (DST) constitutes a natural quasi-experiment to examine the influence of mild sleep loss and circadian misalignment. We investigated the acute effects of spring transition into DST and the chronic effects of DST (compared to standard time) on medical malpractice claims in the United States over three decades.

Methods:

We analyzed 288,432 malpractice claims from the National Practitioner Data Bank. To investigate the acute effects of spring DST transition, we compared medical malpractice incidents/decisions one week before spring DST transition, one week following spring DST transition, and the rest of the year. To investigate the chronic effects of DST months, we compared medical malpractice incidents/decisions averaged across the 7-8 months of DST versus the 4-5 months of standard time.

Results:

With regard to acute effects, spring DST transitions were significantly associated with higher payment decisions, but not associated with the severity of medical incidents. With regard to chronic effects, the 7-8 DST months were associated with higher average payments and worse severity of incidents than the 4-5 standard time months.

Conclusions:

The mild sleep loss and circadian misalignment associated with DST may influence incidence of medical errors and decisions on medical malpractice payments both acutely and chronically.