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Not all accusations of medical malpractice are legitimate

As a medical provider, one of your worst nightmares is doing your best with a patient's care and finding out that they're seeking a malpractice lawsuit against you. Even if you did nothing wrong, some patients believe that this is an easy way to get a settlement or to be paid for what they perceive as mistakes.

The reality is that not everything a patient thinks is a medical mistake truly is. For example, after a surgery, a patient may have trouble recovering. This isn't always due to mistakes a surgeon made. Instead, it might simply be that the patient's body is having a hard time coping with the injuries. Some people take more time to heal, and complications are sometimes unpredictable.

In a survey performed by Medscape, 3,480 physicians were asked about their experiences when dealing with medical malpractice lawsuits. Interestingly, 31 percent stated that they had been involved in a malpractice lawsuit while named alongside other defendants. Only 9 percent stated that they were sued individually. This still means that around 40 percent of physicans have faced medical malpractice lawsuits or claims at one time or another. That means that there is a good chance that you will face a lawsuit during your career, too.

What are the most common causes of lawsuits?

The most common causes for medical malpractice lawsuits include failing to diagnose a patient, not treating a patient and not providing information to inform the patient (then leading to a lack of informed consent). In only 1 percent of cases mentioned above did the physicians expect to face a lawsuit, but around a quarter suspected one might be filed.

The good news about medical malpractice cases is that most don't make it to trial. This means that it's possible to settle a case outside court or negotiate with patients well before heading to trial. In around 22 percent of cases, the plaintiff drops the lawsuit. In around 57 percent of cases that went to trial, there was no monetary award. These are some surprising statistics, but they are telling when it comes to seeing how many legitimate claims are actually made.

As a medical provider, you should do all you can to avoid a lawsuit. Follow up with your patients, order the tests you think you need and perhaps some that are less likely to be needed but that could give you more information, and be positive that you've documented your patient's concerns. These tips could help protect you from lawsuits.

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