Doctors Can Fight Back

Physician's Money Digest, July31 2003, Volume 10, Issue 14

Tort reform is an importantpart of theoverall plan to rein inthe soaring rate of medicalmalpractice lawsuits.But some physicians arelosing patience and aretaking matters into their own hands.

One tactic that's gaining some favor with physiciansis countersuing when a frivolous malpractice suit isfiled against them and fails. There's even a new breedof insurance that supplements malpractice insuranceand helps doctors pay for such countersuits. Doctorswho have this insurance not only gain some legal muscle,but also have a deterrent to capricious lawsuits.

Medical Justice Insurance (336-202-2562; www.medicaljustice.com) will pay the cost of legal tools thatcombat the filing of frivolous suits, including countersuits,which are a doctor's primary offensive tool.Medical Justice Insurance will pay the legal expensesof a physician who countersues after a judge has ruledthat they were wrongly accused of malpractice.

Much of the strategy behind Medical JusticeInsurance is defensive. But there's also the deterrenteffect, which Medical Justice enhances by maintainingan online database of doctors who carry such insurance.The coverage is also designed to encourageplaintiffs to drop groundless suits.

Many plaintiff attorneys pad the defendant listwith names of doctors who are clearly not liablefor any alleged malpractice. Unfortunately, however,the doctors named are often pressured to settlethe suits rather than incur the legal costs of fightingthem. Trial lawyers may be less inclined to filea frivolous malpractice suit against a doctor whocarries Medical Justice Insurance, which makes acountersuit a distinct possibility.

Medical Justice will also instigate action againstunscrupulous expert witnesses who offer deceptivetestimony. If action is warranted, Medical Justicewill pursue it not only in criminal court, but alsowith licensing boards, specialty medical societies,and the American Board of Medical Specialties.

According to the Physician Insurers Association ofAmerica (www.thepiaa.org), only 7% of all filed medicalmalpractice cases actually go to trial, and plaintiffswin in only about 20% of those trials.