Medical malpractice is probably one of the more controversial areas of the law. It is also one of the ones where injuries can be the greatest. No more trust is generally put in a single person than your doctor, and no feeling of betrayal is usually more intense. And yet, most people are reluctant to sue their doctors. Why? Possibly because of a very effective campaign on behalf of your doctor’s insurance companies.
Medical malpractice insurance companies would have you believe that lawyers are « sue happy » when it comes to doctors. The following are some myths and the truth as it relates to medical malpractice:
- Myth: Lawyers target doctors because they can usually get a settlement even if the case is groundless. Truth: Insurance companies for physicians do not settle without a very substantial risk of loss to their insureds. This means that it is common that most cases, except the very significant ones, never settle. Most attorneys realize this and they will refuse to bring cases against doctors unless they believe the case is valid and substantial. Doctors are not « targets » of lawyers. On the contrary, doctors generally enjoy more immunity from suit than most individuals and companies because of the expense and difficulty of those suits.
- Myth: Anyone can sue and even for the most trivial reason; and they often do. Truth: Lawyers know that medical malpractice cases are expensive to bring; sometimes costing upwards of $10,000 in costs. Trivial cases are simply never brought, if only for the economic reasons alone. But there are many other reasons as well-lawyers do not take cases to lose them. Further lawyers are bound by a strict code of ethics that prevents them from bring groundless legal actions. In short, people think that lawyers will sue at the ‘drop of a hat’, but the opposite e is actually true.
- Myth: Lawyers and lawsuits are responsible for the high cost of healthcare. Truth: Lawyers and lawsuits do tend to police the medical profession in a manner that the AMA and the state attorneys general could never do. The AMA is the oldest medical professional organization and presently has as its membership less than 50% of the doctors in this country. This is far fewer than even 10 years ago, which is indicative of the staid and conservative nature of the organization. It is not in its interest to alienate the members remaining by effectively policing them, nor can it regulate the doctors that do not belong to it. It has no legal authority to suspend any doctor’s licence. The attorneys general of the various states do not have the manpower to adequately police every doctor for every improper act, not would it even want to do so. Certain acts which fall short of the standard of care expected of a like physician do not amount to crimes, nor do they necessarily mean that a doctor should have his license revoked. Doctors make mistakes, like all persons, however, their mistakes can be costly ones. There is no reason why doctors should not have to pay for theirs; you would if you made an error on the job. Doctors, however, have insurance companies to pay for their mistakes. Their insurance companies operate much in the same way that your insurance company would act if you had an accident in your car (this can be thought of as « driving malpractice »). There is one difference-doctors often can tell their insurance companies not to settle their cases, thus driving up the cost of the litigation for both sides. Many doctors refuse to accept that they can make a mistake and they can bind the hands of their insurers since they will not have to pay for the costs of defense nor the judgment. This is a right that almost no other insureds have. Notwithstanding the lawsuits, however, healthcare costs have little to do with litigation. The cost of healthcare is due only to a small part on malpractice insurance (and some of even that would have had to have been paid anyway). Healthcare costs is due to many factors: high technology, drug development costs, the general longer life-span of Americans, physician’s salaries, and many, many other factors. Lawyers give the public a valuable service-protection from and compensation for just plain bad doctoring. Our office handles medical malpractice cases on contingency fee basis, meaning you never pay legal fees until a recovery is made.
- Myth: Lawsuits against doctors hurt everyone since their cost is passed to the general public in terms of higher medical costs. Truth: This might be true if medical malpractice suits were more prevalent and defense of these comprised a major portion of the cost of medical care in the country. Fortunately, however, malpractice litigation is simply not a major portion of the cost of health care to the extent that it significantly affects its cost when compared to the many other factors. Also consider that the majority of malpractice cases tried are not successful and the cost of defense of these is not significant compared to the cost of caring for an aging population. The present generation is also the most long-lived generation and as a consequence, the generation that is and will be the most costly to care for. Hiring an attorney is a lot cheaper that caring for a victim of cancer or even one week in the hospital for a patient with a serious illness.
Our firm pledges you that we will carefully screen your case and advise you truthfully as to the case’s viability. We won’t waste your time with a matter that cannot be won. Therefore, when your case is accepted, you can be sure that it will not be put on the ‘back-burner’ while we attend to matters that we feel will be more lucrative. We offer a free initial (non-medical) case screening. Contact us today at 610-565-6660 for an appointment.