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The Great Divide between Doctors and Lawyers

One of the major flashpoints in civil law today concerns the rights that patients are entitled to when, through the negligence of doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals, they become the victims of medical malpractice. A recent article on medical malpractice in the Atlanta Journal Constitution showed just how out of hand the conflict is becoming. As the article demonstrated, who’s at fault for all the contention over this important issue usually depends on who you ask.

Health insurance companies argue that predatory trial lawyers are to blame for the medical malpractice “crisis.” With a legal system that permits plaintiff attorneys to aggressively pursue the rights of medical malpractice victims, insurance companies claim that they must invest tremendous resources toward defending the rights of doctors, surgeons and other medical professionals in court. To pay for this additional “protection,” insurance companies have increased medical malpractice insurance premiums by an industry average of nearly 10 per cent every year since 1997.

Most doctors, surgeons and nurses are understandably resentful of these spiraling costs. Because legal cases of medical malpractice involve less than 1 per cent of physicians each year, many in the healthcare field believe that the soaring increases in medical malpractice insurance are totally unjustified. But when doctors who’ve successfully practiced medicine for twenty years without a single medical malpractice incident question why they must pay $100,000 or more each year for their malpractice insurance, the insurance companies have a very convenient response to these complaints: “Don’t blame us. Blame the law.”

The glaring flaw in that response is one that any trial attorney will gladly explain. To begin with, much of the legislation concerning medical malpractice passed in the last twenty years has gone to bat for the medical establishment, providing special protections and allowances for errors and mistakes medical professionals may make while caring for patients. For instance, Virginia is one of many states that places a cap (currently $1.5 million) on the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded in a medical malpractice case. In states where no caps are in place, insurance companies are lobbying hard to install them, launching coordinated campaigns to influence state and federal laws that limit their liability in medical malpractice cases.

In addition to caps, state laws have been introduced to tighten statutes of limitations and demand higher standards of proof to demonstrate negligence and misconduct on the part of a physician, nurse or other medical practitioner. These new laws have been specifically designed to discourage victims and attorneys alike from pursuing justice through trial in all but the most severe cases of medical malpractice. Statistics show that these laws are doing their job. Nearly 96 per cent of all medical malpractice claims are settled before trial, usually for much less than a winning verdict in court would yield. In short, the financial and legal burdens shouldered by the insurance companies on behalf of medical professionals have not been added to at all. They’ve shrunk substantially.

Divide and Conquer: How Insurance Companies Profit on Medical Malpractice Fears

These facts beg the question - why do medical malpractice rates continue to increase each year? It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to answer that. One concept all successful insurance companies understand is that fear is the ultimate motivator. By exaggerating the threat plaintiff attorneys pose to their profession and livelihood, insurance companies have persuaded doctors that the ever soaring increases in rates are an unfortunate necessity. By fanning the flames of acrimony between doctors and attorneys, insurance companies are inflating fears to inflate their own profits.

Where do victims of medical malpractice stand in this debate? Of the many thousands who suffer from negligence and sub-standards of medical care and treatment each year, only a fraction recover compensation comparable to the financial, physical and emotional toll of the injuries they’ve incurred. Errors due to misdiagnosis, miscommunication, inexperience, lack of qualifications or a simple lack of vigilance remain rampant in American hospitals and doctor's offices, leading to serious illnesses and injuries, such as birth injuries, organ failure, brain injury, spinal cord injury, mental illness, disfigurement, paralysis and disability.

If you’ve suffered serious and permanent injury as a result of a doctor or medical professional’s careless handling of your injury or illness, you deserve the best possible chance of obtaining the maximum recovery for your injuries. Hiring experienced and dedicated medical malpractice trial attorneys gives you that chance. Contact BDI today for a free review of your medical malpractice case.

Breit, Drescher & Imprevento PC
Dominion Tower #1000
999 Waterside Dr
Norfolk VA 23510
Tel: 757 622-6000; 800 807-6060
Fax: 757 670-3939
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