Physician Lawsuits Increase After Initial Suit

MARCH 16, 2016

Physician Lawsuits Increase

Doctors who get sued once for malpractice are likely to be sued again. The more times a doctor is sued and the more times he pays out, the more likely it is to happen again. A vigorous and strong defense in a malpractice case is the only way to halt the financial hemorrhaging.

Strong defense is best protection in today's litigious society.

If a doctor is sued once and loses, his chances of being sued again go up. If he loses two cases, the chances rise yet again.

It gets worse. The more times a physician is sued for malpractice and loses, the more he's likely to face more challenges. The New England Journal of Medicine just published a comprehensive report studying the prevalence of malpractice lawsuits.

It's not encouraging news.

"Approximately 1% of all physicians accounted for 32% of paid claims. Among physicians with paid claims, 84% incurred only one during the study period (accounting for 68% of all paid claims), 16% had at least two paid claims (accounting for 32% of the claims), and 4% had at least three paid claims (accounting for 12% of the claims). In adjusted analyses, the risk of recurrence increased with the number of previous paid claims," the report's synopsis states.

A report in the New York Times puts it slightly differently: "A doctor who had two paid claims was twice as likely to have another as a doctor who had one, and a doctor who had six or more paid claims was 12 times as likely to have another."

The Times blog and the NEJM report point a finger at doctors. "...[D]octors who accumulate multiple claims are a problem, and a threat to the health care system. Identifying these high-risk doctors is a key first step toward doing something about the problem," said study co-author David M. Studdert.

Are doctors the problem or is the real problem opportunistic lawyers who see easy targets?

I believe doctors who don't mount an adequate defense against malpractice cases make the problem worse. The study says more lawsuits are likely when doctors have to pay out a settlement. If the same study was done and looked at doctors who were sued, but did not pay claims, I believe the results would show future malpractice claims dropped sharply.

Personal injury attorneys are not going to go after doctors if the lawsuit takes a lot of effort. No attorney likes to invest time without being compensated. Such attorneys will go after doctors with a history of paying claims. There are too many easy targets out there, as the NEJM study indicates.

The Times blog says as much: "...[A] doctor who had six or more paid claims was 12 times as likely to have another."

Doctors who mount a vigorous defense to challenge the malpractice claims are less likely to be sued in the future. If you are facing a malpractice case or a challenge to your practice, it is important to consider the ramifications on your state license to practice medicine.

Also, it is important to vigorously defend patient accusations that do not make it to courts of civil claims. If you are contacted by a state licensing board with allegations of any sort, you need someone who can help guide you through the process. With nearly 20 years of experience and countless successful results, contact one of the Atlanta Medicare Fraud Lawyers at Frances Cullen, P.C. so we work together to defend your right to practice medicine.