Medical malpractice lawsuits are rare when you consider other personal injury claims, but they are often very serious, life-changing, or even life-threatening types of cases. When it's a family physician who commits malpractice, it is all the more devastating because a family physician is someone we often come to trust deeply. We go to them for our own health as well as the health of our children and our aging parents. So, when medical malpractice is committed by our family physician, the consequences seem so much direr.
How Often Does Family Physician Malpractice Occur?
As mentioned, the risk of malpractice is slim and even slimmer when it's a family physician. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine nearly ten years ago following malpractice cases from 1991 through 2005. The results of that extensive, never-done-before study showed that:
- 7.4% of all physicians have had a malpractice claim;
- of all the claims made, 1.6% led to a payment;
- the proportion of physicians facing claims were as follows:
- 19.1% in neurosurgery
- 18.9% in thoracic-cardiovascular surgery
- 15.3% in general surgery
- 5.2% in family medicine
- 3.1% in pediatrics, and
- 2.6% in psychiatry.
So, family physicians facing medical malpractice claims were towards the bottom of the list. The other important thing to note about this study is the high chances a claim will not result in a payment. Unfortunately, what happens is patients assume that if they don't get better, then the doctor must have done something wrong, and this is particularly true in cases where the doctor is a family physician.
Medscape just released its Family Physician Malpractice Report for 2019. In this report, it found that most malpractice lawsuits against family physicians largely occur because:
- patients blamed bad outcomes on doctors because they didn't understand medical risks, and
- patients who were injured from medical errors sought restitution and/or to assign blame/responsibility.
The same report found that of the family physicians surveyed nearly 50% were the subject of a medical malpractice lawsuit. The following reasons for medical malpractice lawsuits against family physicians:
- 42% – Failure to diagnose/delayed diagnosis
- 22% – Poor outcome/disease progression
- 19% – Failure to treat/delayed treatment
- 18% – Wrongful death
- 15% – Complications for treatment/surgery
- 9% – Patient suffered an abnormal injury
- 5% – Poor documentation of patient instruction and education
- 1% – Errors in medication administration
- 1% – Improperly obtaining/lack of informed consent
- 1% – Failure to follow safety procedures.
To note, respondents in the study could choose more than one answer. In all of the lawsuits that were reviewed by the study, 39% settled before trial while only 2% had verdicts that returned in favor of the plaintiff. In most other cases, the suit was dismissed for one reason or another. In those where monetary awards were granted, the after reward was $500,000.
What Should You Do If You Believe You Are the Victim of Family Physician Malpractice?
If you believe you or someone you love has experienced some kind of medical malpractice by a family physician, speak to an experienced medical malpractice lawyer. During a free initial consultation, you can discuss your concerns, and the attorney should advise you if you have a case or not. As expressed in the above studies, winning a medical malpractice case can be a difficult task. These cases require considerable evidence, so it's important to find a medical malpractice attorney with experience and insight so you don't waste your time or, alternatively, so you do pursue a viable lawsuit.
Only an experienced medical malpractice attorney can save you the expense if your case is not warranted. Likewise, only an experienced medical malpractice attorney can take your case and pursue a successful end. Contact those who know; contact Gilman & Bedigian to learn more.