Malpractice is a threat that ever hangs over the heads of physicians, so get in front and take the right precautions to prevent a case.
Malpractice is a threat that ever hangs over the heads of physicians, and depending on what specialty you work in, the threat is very real.
According to the American Medical Association, nearly all surgeons (90%) will be sued at least once. More than 61% of all doctors will be sued by the age of 55 and half of all OB-GYNs will be sued before they turn 50.
Considering how likely it is that physicians will find themselves in this situation, it behooves them to be prepared.
“With the average cost of settling a malpractice suit around $350,000, it is wise for MDs to arm their practices—and themselves—against highly disruptive and costly legal battles,” says Steven Abernathy, co-founder of the Physician Family Office. “Knowing what makes plaintiffs’ attorneys tick is critical; so is mastering the legal process.”
Abernathy advises that physicians should voluntarily participate in litigation by becoming an expert witness. Doing so will allow physicians to learn how to handle themselves in a courtroom and make the whole process less alien.
According to co-founder Brian Luster, protecting against a lawsuit doesn’t necessarily mean loading up on malpractice insurance, an act that might put a physician’s personal assets at risk.
However, at the prospect of a higher payout, they may be more prone to roll the dice, hoping for causation between the physician’s actions and the patient’s injury.
However, physicians with proper asset protection will find the chances of a lawsuit decrease, Luster says. An attorney won’t be willing to gamble on a case that has little merit and little payout.
Instead of going for the highest malpractice coverage, physicians would be better suited to buy low to medium coverage while legally protecting their assets. They’ll save on yearly malpractice premiums and will deter frivolous lawsuits.
According to the Physician Family Office, the following precautions will decrease the risk of a successful malpractice claim:
1. Consulting a professional to ensure assets are legally structured so that no one, other than the physician, has access to them.
2. Seek informed consent. Patients are more likely to have realistic expectations of their procedure when both the benefits and risks are explained and documented.
3. Be proactive and get accustomed to how to handle yourself in a courtroom.
4. The American Board of Independent Medical Examiners recommends becoming an “expert witness” to turn time in the courtroom into a money making event. A physician may earn $500 or more per hour.