Lawsuits: Most Doctors Say There Was No Trigger Event


November 15, 2017

In This Article

Money Is a Key Driver in Bringing Lawsuits

"Everyone is trying to blame doctors, but most lawsuits have little or nothing to do with errors," says Fitzpatrick. Often, the plaintiffs have nothing to lose and the attorney has taken the case on contingency.

However, although the desire for a payout is a motivating factor, there are instances in which physician standard of care contributed to the lawsuit.

David B. Troxel, MD, of The Doctors Company, a medical malpractice insurer in Napa, California, says, "Our data show that over 80% of all malpractice claims involving physicians insured by The Doctors Company resolve with no indemnity payment to the plaintiff. Likewise, over 80% of claims that go to a jury trial result in a defense verdict for the physician. This indicates that the vast majority of adverse outcomes resulting in malpractice claims do not involve medical practice below the standard of care."

'Shotgun' Lawsuits Target Multiple Physicians

One reason for the high number of physicians sued is that many are named in lawsuits citing multiple physicians and clinicians.

"Plaintiff attorneys are naming a lot more hospitals in lawsuits, because more doctors are becoming employees of hospitals. Hospitals have deep pockets and are willing to defend their physicians," Fitzpatrick says. 'Shotgun' lawsuits often name everyone who could potentially have interacted with the patient and theoretically could be at fault.

"A lot of employed physicians have their own policies, beyond what the hospital provides," says Fitzpatrick. "The plaintiff attorneys will name every possible physician in hopes of finding some who have their own insurance. The plaintiff attorneys are looking for someone who is stand-alone and could turn against the hospital."

High productivity targets and rushed medical care, which have become more frequent in today's environment, may also affect the frequency of lawsuits. Griffith says, "The cost of medical care has escalated significantly, and patients expect more than they are getting. They sometimes wait long periods before being seen, and then they are lucky if the doctor spends more than a few minutes with them. There is no rapport with the physicians."

"When things don't turn out as the patient expected, the explanation they seize upon is that the doctor was negligent," says Griffith. "Lawyer advertising is also a factor in planting the idea that bad results equal negligence."


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