BACKGROUND: Although China experienced great improvement in their health system, disputes between patients and doctors have increasingly intensified, reaching an unprecedented level. Retrospective analysis of medical malpractice litigation can discover the characteristics and fundamental cause of these disagreements. METHODS: We analyzed medical malpractice litigation data from 1998 to 2011 for characteristics of claims via a litigation database within a nationwide database of cases (1086 cases) in China, including claims, liabilities, injures, and compensation payments. RESULTS: Among the cases analyzed, 76 percent of claims received compensation in civil judgment (640 out of 841), while 93 percent were fault liability in paid judgment (597 out of 640). The average time span between the occurrence of the injury dispute and closure of claims was 3 years. Twenty-two percent of claims (183 of 841) were caused by injury, poisoning, and other external causes. Seventy-nine percent of claims (472 of 597) were contributed to by errors in medical technology. The median damage compensation payment for death was significantly lower than for serious injuries (P < 0.001; death, $13270 [IQR, $7617-$23181]; serious injury, $23721 [IQR, $10367-$57058]). Finally, there was no statistically significant difference in the median mental compensation between minor injury, serious injury, and death (P = 0.836). CONCLUSION: The social reasons for the conflict and high payment were catastrophic out-of-pocket health-care expense in addition to the high expectations for treatment in China. There were no distinguishing features between China and other countries with respect to time of suits, facilities, and specialties in these claims. The compensation for damages in different medical injuries was unfair in China.