Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Malpractice: To settle or fight

From Medical Economics:

Being named in a malpractice suit is bad enough. Being told by your attorney and insurance carrier that the case "just isn't defensible" is worse still.

Those discouraging words—which, when combined, usually spell "settlement"—aren't always based on medical events. Two physicians might provide the same treatment to similarly afflicted patients, resulting in the same unfortunate outcome, but one doctor goes to court and wins, while the other is forced to settle for $1 million.

Why the difference? Partly, it's the vagaries of the legal system, which relies on judges, attorneys, and juries that differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and case to case. Partly it's because your insurer might prefer to avoid the expense of litigation. (See "Sued? You may never get your day in court," Aug. 4, 2006.) But mostly it's because the nonmedical aspects of a malpractice case can trump the therapeutic ones. Defense attorneys, after weighing all the pertinent factors, might conclude that you're best off settling out of court because you're not likely to fare well before a judge and jury.


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