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Why do doctors settle medical malpractice suits?

People shopping for a doctor tend to assume that a medical malpractice lawsuit on a physician’s record is a red flag. It can be true that this doctor has made a serious mistake, but often there is more to the story, according to Consumer Reports. Not every doctor who has ever made a payment to a former patient is incompetent.

When a doctor and his or her malpractice insurance company settles a malpractice claim, it often is for other reasons than guilt. A professor at Stanford who studies malpractice litigation said that many such cases settle without an admission of guilt. Other times, the doctor is technically the defendant, but the hospital where he or she practices was actually the negligent party.

Then there are times when the insurance company decides it is cheaper to settle than to take the case to trial, no matter what the result will be on the physician’s reputation. Some doctors, who specialize in more difficult fields or accept high-risk patients, tend to have more negative outcomes and thus are vulnerable to malpractice lawsuits.

Finally, even excellent doctors occasionally settle or lose a malpractice claim. These doctors are dedicated and hard-working. Should a single mistake, perhaps from years ago, define them forever?

Instead, Consumer Reports recommends that patients look for a pattern of malpractice payouts via their state medical board’s records.

For doctors, a malpractice accusation is a serious matter. Fortunately, an experienced personal injury defense can examine the evidence and build an effective defense, or negotiate a fair settlement, if necessary.

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