By the time doctors are 65 years old, 75% who practice in a low-risk specialty will be sued, and 99% who practice in a high-risk specialty will be sued. And, in the U.S. alone, more than 17,000 malpractice suits are filed every year.
Some types of doctors are more likely to be sued. Some medical specialties have higher risk, leading to more lawsuits. These high-risk specialties include neurosurgery, thoracic-cardiovascular surgery, general surgery, and obstetrics and gynecology. Other specialties are a bit safer, with the lowest risk specialties including pediatrics and psychiatry.No doctor should feel pressure to be perfect. Doctors are human too, and it's only natural that they make mistakes. However, patients do hold their physicians to high standards. They expect their doctors to communicate well and treat them with accuracy and compassion. When doctors don't meet these standards, suits happen.
Why Do Doctors Get Sued?
The most common reasons for medical malpractice suits include:
- Failure to diagnose an issue
- Failure to treat a patient
- Abnormal injury to the patient
- Medication errors
- Improper charts and records of patient care and instructions
- Not obtaining/improperly obtaining informed consent from patient
- Not following safety guidelines
Doctors who have poor communication and people skills are also more likely to be sued. Studies have shown that physicians who use humor, educate patients about medical care, and get their patients to speak up are the least likely to be sued: being kind pays off. By building strong doctor-patient relationships, doctors mitigate their own levels of risk.
What Happens When Doctors Get Sued?
It's uncommon for medical malpractice to cause disciplinary action or loss of medical license. However, it does happen: hospitals can punish and fire doctors. State medical boards can fine them, monitor their actions, and even suspend or revoke their license. The punishments tend to vary from state to state, with some state medical boards being much stricter or having more authority than others.
Malpractice suits can negatively affect doctors both in their professional and personal lives. A malpractice suit takes time away physicians could have been spending with patients, typically taking an average of 3.5 years to resolve. Depending on the severity and frequency of being sued, the potential for being adversely affected regarding med mal insurance is high.
Additionally, malpractice suits can cause doctors extreme mental and emotional stress. They can experience feelings of guilt, betrayal, shame, and incompetence. They may also develop serious anxiety or depression, and the suit may put a strain on regular family life. These emotional and psychological struggles are made worse because the lawsuit process can continue for months or even years while doctors continue to suffer.
How to Protect Yourself
Most doctors will be sued sometime in their life. Although their danger varies with specialty, no one is completely free of risk. Lawsuits can lead to punishments, fines, and even the loss of a medical license. Lawsuits also threaten a doctor's professional reputation and can wreak havoc on their emotional and mental health.
If you have questions or are looking to protect yourself against malpractice suits, call Capson Physicians Insurance to learn about the advantages of having a provider that has in-house claims attorneys or to get a free quote today and save on average of 25% of what you are currently paying.