Medical Malpractice Liability
Medical malpractice liability refers to the risk physicians of all kinds take on when practicing medicine. Malpractice is negligence of duty when it causes harm to the patient, and liability refers to the risk of the cost of being sued as a result of the negligence. All medical doctors are required to obtain insurance prior to beginning their practice of medicine, and the cost can vary from state to state. Some states have laws that make suing a doctor very easy, whereas other states have stricter laws when litigation is concerned. Naturally, doctors will want to situate themselves in areas when the risk of being sued from malpractice is less. This does not necessarily mean that those physicians are poor at practicing medicine. These doctors may simply wish to avoid the risk and save the money. Insurance is not cheap.
Americans have become a litigious people, seeking ways to sue others for very little reason. These people are gold diggers, looking for opportunities to gain from others hurt, and may go so far as to try to create situations that put themselves and others at risk in order to get money. While this may be the case in accident insurance, this would be more difficult to do in the case of a practicing physician. Those who have been harmed during treatment, are those who have suffered from having the wrong organs removed, the wrong limb operated on, inadequate or dangerous medications administered, and hundreds of other reasons. Of course, there are myriads of situations where something can go wrong, and the physician may not be directly at fault, but the patient is in the care of the physician when many of those issues arise, and so it could be that the physician is the first one to be blamed. This is why medical malpractice liability is so burdensome.
Since our society is so litigious, physicians may perform more tests than necessary on the patient in order to rule out absolutely, the probable causes of the patients illness. More testing means higher costs to the patients, which raises healthcare premiums and eventually the patients find healthcare too expensive one day. Should the physician have an overabundance of bad practice insurance, then the risk may not have as much of an impact, and the doctor could perform too few tests, putting the patient at more risk. There is a fine line to walk in these situations, and states struggle to find that happy medium for both parties where medical malpractice liability is concerned. The wicked in his pride doth persecute the poor: let them be taken in the devices that they have imagined (Psalms 10:2 KJV).
Medical malpractice liability can be burdensome on insurers when large claims must be paid, and the investments insurance companies have do not perform well in todays tenuous economic climate. Insurance companies depend on these investments to fund the business. With little money to bolster the business, claims cannot be paid. In order to compensate for this discrepancy, the insurance companies must raise their premium rates, which of course raise the cost to physicians, which also raises costs to patients. So the cost of healthcare continues to rise in situations such as this, although some studies state that these costs do not significantly affect the overall cost of healthcare. Everything works together in a symbiotic manner to either suppress costs or increase costs, depending on the economic factors involved in medical malpractice liability.
Another factor impinging on medical malpractice liability is the tendency of lawyers to take on cases of medical malpractice, and the associated costs thereof. Some states have decided to put limits on how much doctors can be sued for, and the monetary awards the plaintiffs receive in such cases. If there were no caps, as has been the case in many areas of the country, physicians find they can no longer practice efficiently and still make an adequate living, due to the high costs of malpractice insurance. Once again, a balance must be attained to have neither too much medical malpractice liability insurance, nor too little. If malpractice fines are too small, this will put the patient at risk, and will once again drive people to sue the physicians. This can become a vicious cycle. Therefore, it is in the best interest of the physician and the patient that lawyers set boundaries as to how many malpractice suits they will accept and the fees associated with them.
In recent years, efforts have been made to limit tort suits due to the inflationary effects on liability insurance. Costs associates with torts cost taxpayers nearly $250,000,000,000! Even though past years have seen a lot of tortuous activity, the numbers of claims are beginning to slowly decline. The declines are attributed to new safety procedures and measures in doctors offices, hospital emergency departments and gynecological practices. In certain cities of the USA, studies have found that certain states have specific areas where malpractice lawsuits are unusually high, such as southern Florida, a county in Illinois and the gulf coast of Texas among others.
Medical malpractice liability surely has both positive and negative effects on physicians, patients and even the legal system.
Changes continue to take place in laws in various states in an effort to create more of a balanced system so that both patients and physicians are treated with fairness throughout the process. Since it has been seen that introducing procedures into medical practices has served to help reduce incidences of malpractice claims, it shows that there is some liability on the part of physicians that has been overlooked and is finally being addressed. This also helps to keep claims from becoming suits, resulting in thousands and millions of dollars in punitive damages which may have been needless.
Medical Malpractice InsuranceMost states require that physicians have medical malpractice insurance in order to protect the practice, and the patient, from an errors or oversights during treatment. While many bemoan the necessity of having such policies, especially considering the recent rise in prices, this coverage is essential in order to safeguard a patient's right to quality medical care and a physician's right to practice medicine. Doctors, however, are not the only practitioners that need to have liability policies to cover them in the event of unintentional patient negligence. Nurses, dentists, therapists, and generally anyone who has one on one contact with a patient should look into buying an affordable and comprehensive medical malpractice insurance package.
No doctor ever dreams of having to use his medical malpractice insurance, but, unfortunately, accidents can and do happen. And when something does go wrong, considering the fragile nature of human health, the results can be devastating and expensive to repair. Courts are generally sympathetic to the plight of the patient if the doctor makes an error, and the judgments often reflect this with their large amounts. Of course, in a case like this, where a victim is awarded a large judgment, insurance will protect the physician up to his maximum amount of liability. These liability insurance providers are not just used when something goes horribly wrong, however; in fact, the company can be even more beneficial when the charges of negligence are false. In situations where the provider is innocent of the claims made against him, the medical malpractice insurance company will fight on behalf of the doctor, making sure that an injustice is not done in the legal system. And a reputable company will not always pressure a provider to settle but will, instead, support the defense of the healthcare provider and the administered treatment.
Many healthcare providers wonder if they can do anything to get lower prices on premiums. But unlike automobile insurance, medical malpractice insurance is not really priced based on a physician's past history. If a person has a wreck and is the cause of the accident, he can reasonably expect that his premiums will rise; this is the case as well if he is caught speeding or given another traffic ticket that adds points to the license. Doctors, however, are not judged primarily on their previous track record. Underwriters for the policy will typically price the premiums according the specialization of the doctor and the location of the practice. These two factors enable the insurance company to piece together a reasonable estimate of risk and potential claims. While these estimates are in no way a foolproof indication of whether a physician will be sued at some point in the future, they allow the policy writers to assess the projected cost of coverage over an extended period of time.
This particular brand of liability coverage has gotten a lot of press lately due to its rising costs. Doctors complain about the increasingly exorbitant amount that has to be paid in order to keep the policies current, and since this type of insurance is required by almost every state in the country, it is nearly impossible to practice medicine without it. Part of the reason for the rising costs is the large settlements awarded to victims of medical negligence. Many doctors are also experiencing difficulty finding companies to ensure their practice after several large providers ceased offering new policies. These two factors have led some health care professionals to call for medical malpractice insurance reform, and they are actively lobbying the government to place restrictions on insurance companies in order to keep the problem from spiraling out of hand.
Considering the rise in costs of medical malpractice insurance, many practitioners are evaluating their current policies and looking for better deals. While this is certainly not a bad idea, the insured should use caution before committing to a different company and policy. He should not be hasty in his desire to pay less money for coverage; "He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly" (Proverbs 14:29). He should, instead, examine how thorough his own package is and question whether or not it is meeting his needs. Many will find that they, contrary to what they originally thought, do not have enough insurance. In this situation, purchasing additional coverage is advisable. Others may discover that they can safely eliminate some of their coverage without putting themselves at risk in the future. The important thing to remember is to remain with a reputable company and not to skimp on coverage. While no one ever wants to have to use their insurance, needing to and not having enough is a recipe for disaster.
Doctors are highly regarded individuals; they tend the sick, making people well in the face of sometimes overwhelming illness. Patients pay a lot of money to the medical industry in the pursuit of better health. So it is not surprising that when something goes wrong, a health care professional usually ends up facing high lawsuit amounts. People feel betrayed by those they trust with their very lives and are disappointed in expensive care turning out badly. This is why there is such a need for medical malpractice insurance; no one, not even the highest trained and lauded physician is above the capacity for error. And even small errors can turn into fatal situations given the right circumstances. But if a person is adequately covered, he can be reasonably assured that even if an accident does occur, it will not cost the health care professional his license or his livelihood.