More than half of the physicians in the United States have been named in a medical malpractice lawsuit, and yet when it happens most physicians will say they are surprised by the suit. Why are they surprised when everyone generally knows that malpractice suits happen all the time? The answer is that doctors and other healthcare providers are doing their best to provide quality care for their patients, and most believe they have good communication and relationships with those patients. The problem is that it isn’t easy to please everyone, there are many people looking for a reason to sue a doctor, and sometimes there are bad outcomes. Because of this, all physicians need to have a financially stable medical malpractice insurance company that will vigorously defend them in a malpractice claim.
According to Medscape’s 2017 Malpractice Report, the top 10 specialties for medical malpractice lawsuits are:
- Plastic Surgery
- Emergency Medicine
Looking at the list it is no surprise that the providers performing the highest risk procedures are the ones getting sued most often. But they are not the only ones being named in suits. Family Practice, Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, Dermatology, and many other specialties get served with malpractice suits as well. In fact, no specialty is immune to getting sued.
The number one reason for medical malpractice lawsuits is misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis. This can happen when a physician overlooks something that turns up later and has progressed beyond control. Many times misdiagnosis occurs because the patient has failed to schedule follow up visits, and it’s not negligence on the part of the physician, but it can still turn into a lawsuit if the patient is unhappy.
About 90% of physicians involved in medical malpractice lawsuits claim the suit is unwarranted, which is generally true considering about the same number of lawsuits are dropped or dismissed without any sort of payout. However, a dropped or dismissed case can still cost thousands of dollars in defense costs as well as time spent in preparing for the case. Meetings with attorneys, gathering records, and giving depositions takes physicians out of their offices and distracts them from seeing other patients. It can also cause a great deal of stress and anxiety.
Practicing good medicine, communicating well with patients, and employing risk management strategies in a medical practice are the best ways to avoid a lawsuit. Considering more than half of all physicians are involved in lawsuits, it should come as no surprise when a physician is served with a malpractice suit. Healthcare providers need to be prepared for a suit and have medical malpractice insurance coverage that will protect and defend them when they need them most.
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