The emotional cost of medical malpractice liability for physicians

Weatherby Healthcare - emotional cost of medical malpractice - featured image of locum tenens provider worried about an adverse event

The words “medical malpractice” will typically stop any physician cold in his tracks. These words usually evoke dread from new residents, seasoned doctors, and every provider in between. But ignoring the reality won’t make it go away, and there is an emotional cost of medical malpractice liability for locum tenens physicians that can be just as damaging as the financial cost.

Statistics show that if you’re in practice for five years or more, odds are you’ll be named at least once in some kind of professional medical liability action. In a 2017 Medscape Malpractice Report that surveyed 4,137 physicians across 25 specialties, more than half (55 percent) said they had been named at least once in a medical malpractice lawsuit. And more than half of that group said it had happened to them more than once. And the majority never saw it coming: 87 percent of the doctors who said they were sued reported being at least somewhat surprised that someone took legal action against them.

The right coverage reduces the emotional cost of medical malpractice

Fortunately, reputable locum tenens staffing agencies – like Weatherby Healthcare – supply comprehensive malpractice insurance to protect providers from the financial impact of legal action that may arise from adverse events.  This is a significant benefit since the costs can be substantial, especially when you factor in the value of your time, including travel and lost billings at work. The cost goes up when you consider how lengthy the lawsuit process can be. Nearly 40 percent of Medscape survey respondents said the process lasted from one to two years. 10 percent said it went on longer than five years.

During that time, one-third of the respondents spent more than 40 hours preparing their defense. After the preparation phase, 20 percent spent up to 10 hours in court and trial-related meetings. And 18 percent said court time took them more than 50 hours.

Weatherby Healthcare - emotional cost of medical malpractice - image of doctor with a positive malpractice outcome

How the emotional cost of medical malpractice events shows up

The point that’s often missed is that not all malpractice costs are financial. Surprise, shock, anger, and fear are just a few stops along the way in a medical malpractice lawsuit. And even when a case gets dismissed with no impact on a doctor’s finances or reputation, going through the process can still be stressful. So much so, in fact, that many of the Medscape survey respondents changed the way they practice medicine or relate to patients after being sued for malpractice.

The good news is that locum tenens providers who work with the right staffing agency don’t have to go through it alone. Locum tenens providers at Weatherby Healthcare, for example, always have someone knowledgeable and experienced on their side to minimize the personal and career impact of malpractice lawsuits.

And the best news is that a medical malpractice event does not have to limit or end your career. Sixty-seven percent of Medscape respondents said their lawsuit had no negative effects on their medical career.

Make sure you have the right support team on your side

At Weatherby, you are never alone. As long as you notify the risk-management team of any adverse patient outcomes, the dedicated support team will handle any claim, retain top-tier local defense attorneys, pay all litigation costs, and pay damages in the event of a settlement or a judgment against you in the amount of up to $1,000,000 per occurrence.

Dealing with medical malpractice is a fact of life for physicians. Armed with the facts, and with the right partner by your side, an adverse event doesn’t mean your career or reputation will be damaged. It’s good to have an expert agency like Weatherby in your corner. If you’d like to find out more about medical malpractice liability, you can read our complete guide for physicians here.

About the author

Lisa Daggett

Lisa Daggett is well-versed on the topic of locum tenens staffing and was a regular contributor to LocumLife, Healthcare Traveler, and Travel Nurse magazines. She served as associate editor of RN Magazine and as an editorial assistant for Business & Health.

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