Malpractice insurance will provide physicians with an attorney, but sometimes that’s not enough.
According to a 2018 report by the American Medical Association, 34% of all practicing physicians have been sued. And, if a doctor is still practicing past age 55, that percentage goes up to nearly 50%. Since the prospect of a lawsuit is becoming almost inevitable, the need for malpractice insurance is a no-brainer. Malpractice Insurance is the product that keeps many doctors who have been sued in business. Aside from covering most of the legal costs associated with defending against a claim, it also ensures that the physician is not out any wages while dealing with the case. The peace of mind that comes with carrying a good insurance policy is substantial, however doctors would do well to educate themselves as to knowing when they should take a more proactive role; which may include hiring an attorney outside of the one provided for in their malpractice policy.
Picking the “right” attorney
While most malpractice insurance companies have a select list of attorneys they work with, it is not outside of the norm for a physician to request that an attorney of their own choosing head up their defense or at least collaborate on it. If a physician’s choice of attorney has more experience that the one suggested by the insurance company or specializes in a certain type of medical practice, they may be a better fit for representation. Assuming the lawyer is willing to work with the physician’s insurance company, the physician’s preference, in many instances, can be accommodated.
What does the malpractice policy say?
Does the physician have the final say as to whether a case is settled or is that left up to the insurance company? Maybe that decision lies with the physician’s employer? Does the physician know what is covered or what is not covered in their malpractice policy? Do they even know the limits of the policy? Do they know what their responsibilities are and what their employer’s responsibilities are? Does the physician have a copy of their malpractice policy? If the answer to any of these questions are “I don’t know” or “no”, a physician would do well to find out. Preferably prior to being sued. Whether sued or not, it is an excellent idea to have a lawyer read over the policy and explain it thoroughly to the physician. The best way to defend a malpractice lawsuit or to avoid one all together is to understand the behavior that is required from all the parties.
Thinking beyond the “limits”
Another instance when it makes sense for a doctor to enlist an attorney of their own is when their personal assets are at stake. In addition to the attorney that the malpractice policy is providing, personal representation should be added if a potential verdict may run over the malpractice policy’s limits. This situation should be worrisome to any defendant as it would open them up to potentially devastating financial exposure. The attorney whose primary concern lies with the interests of the insurance company, or with an employer, should not be the person charged with simultaneously looking out for a physician’s personal assets.
While malpractice lawsuits may feel inevitable, physicians should rest easier knowing there is much they can do to be proactive in their own defense. This starts with gaining good information and fully understanding the process.
If you are a medical professional with questions about your malpractice insurance or if you are dealing with a malpractice lawsuit, the attorneys at Business Law Southwest are here to help. Contact us today