The vast majority of medical malpractice claims never make it to trial. Many of them fizzle out once the facts of the case become clearer – but others get resolved through settlements.
Should you settle, or should you fight? The answer isn’t always that easy for a physician. Here are some things to consider:
Are there any pros to a settlement?
The most obvious “pro” in favor of a settlement is that it ends all the anxiety surrounding the case. You get a known outcome, and that can make it easier to move on. It’s stressful to have to deal with an ongoing claim, so settlement is sometimes useful even when you believe that your standard of care was appropriate.
You also have to consider what your insurance, clinic, practice partners or hospital thinks. In some cases, they may feel like the patient will ultimately win their claim if the case does go to court, so a settlement can avoid a higher payout, an economic loss (from going through the trial) and bad publicity. In some cases, you may be required to settle if your insurance thinks you should.
Are there any cons to a settlement?
The most obvious “con,” of course, is that you may feel like you’re acknowledging a mistake – and that can really rub you the wrong way, emotionally, when you’re sure that your care was correct.
Plus, the settlement can tarnish your professional reputation. It’s up to the state licensing board whether or not a case results in some kind of further inquiries, but any settlement could be construed as an admission of fault. Multiple settlements could also raise some warning flags. Your insurance, too, may rise after one or more settlements (which is more likely when they’re large).
Being accused of medical malpractice is an agonizing situation for most physicians – but you don’t have to go through this situation alone. Experienced legal guidance can help you better understand all of the options on the table.