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Does economic standing influence how likely patients are to sue?

As a doctor, the unfortunate reality is that you worry about getting sued. In every profession, mistakes happen. You know that you are only human. But the stakes feel incredibly high because your patients may turn around and sue you and the hospital for an error they think you should have prevented -- whether that is realistic or not.

Because of this, you constantly consider how likely a patient may be to sue you. From the moment you meet them, it is in the back of your mind. One thing you wonder about is economic status. Does how much money someone has indicate just how likely it is that the person would sue you?

The common stereotype

There is a common stereotype that you may have heard before, claiming that those living in poverty are more likely to start a lawsuit. They are economically disadvantaged, people claim, so medical professionals need to be careful.

This perception could be rooted in the idea that doctors worry that those with less will see them as a payday. They may not have any way to break this cycle of poverty. Are they just looking for a way to start a lawsuit, regardless of the outcome of the procedure? Do they view this maliciously as a chance to take advantage of the system?

The reality

If you have heard people repeat this stereotype before, you're not alone. Researchers heard it so often that they decided to study it and see if it held any weight.

What they found is that it is a misconception. The truth actually shows that lawsuits are more common when dealing with well-off patients. Those in the economically disadvantaged category "tend to sue physicians less often."

Why it happens

Of course, every situation is different, but one reason that this may happen is that those without any financial means may lack access to some of the legal resources that others enjoy. They may not know as much about the system, or they may feel that it is too expensive to start a case, not understanding contingency fees.

On the other hand, those with more disposable income may feel better about risking it on a lawsuit that doesn't have much merit. They may also have a higher education level regarding the subject, meaning that they're thinking about suing the entire time, rather than just thinking about the medical side of the procedure.

Your defense options

As you can see, buying into stereotypes and misconceptions is not wise. No matter which patients start a medical malpractice lawsuit against you, and no matter why they do so, you must know all of your legal options.

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