Many physicians throughout the country have made the decision to drop their medical malpractice insurance. However, simply eliminating your coverage without replacing the insurance with a thoughtful strategy is like flying a plane without a pilot. You will certainly reduce lawsuits without the target of insurance above your head, but there is still a risk. In order to lower that risk, doctors need to employ the following two-part strategy:
Legal Defense — If you are sued, you will need to hire an attorney to defend you and your practice. Hiring that attorney at the last minute (when the lawsuit is already filed) will be expensive, and the time pressure caused by the lawsuit will hamper your ability to shop around and negotiate the legal fee. It is like going to a hospital’s costly emergency room for a common ailment–you will pay much less at a doctor’s office if you went when you first noticed the symptoms.
With pre-paid legal defense, you will be locked-in at a low price before any lawsuit. Not only will you pay lower attorney’s fees, but the attorney suing you will have less leverage against you. Plaintiff attorneys will be unable to scare you with the hypothetical “attorney’s fees” you will be forced to pay in defending your case. Since your entire defense team is pre-paid, the Plaintiff will know that you can afford to take the case to trial–a powerful tool in getting cases resolved.
Asset Protection — On top of a legal defense, having an up-to-date asset protection strategy is a must. Numerous attorneys, accountants and financial planners are skilled in implementing such a strategy. The “plan” must be tailored to your particular financial situation and must consider tax and estate planning as well.
When a plaintiff’s attorney learns that you are uninsured, have a pre-paid legal defense and have asset protection in place, the potential for profiting on the lawsuit is minimal. Those attorneys will spend their time where payment is guaranteed–lawsuits against doctors with insurance.
Mark L. Rosen, Esquire is a partner at the law firm of Lubell & Rosen. Mr. Rosen is Board Certified in Health Law by the Florida Bar and primarily practices in the area of medical malpractice defense. Mr. Rosen can be contacted atwww.doctordefense.com.