Physicians and Lawsuits, Part 1. What are the Statistics? – Legally Mine

If you practice medicine, you WILL be sued

“By the age of 65 years, 75% of physicians in low-risk specialties and 99% of those in high-risk specialties were projected to face a claim. ”
New England Journal of Medicine, 8/18/2011 (1)

Those are terrifying numbers.  Essentially by the end of your career as a physician, if you haven’t been sued at least once (many face multiple lawsuits in their lives) then you are in the minority.   And unless only 25% of our nations physicians aren’t terrible at what they do, the fact that physicians gets sued has little to do with the quality of their skills or their ability to practice medicine.

If you are a physician, then you will get sued.  It is almost guaranteed.  Not for who you are, or because you necessarily did anything wrong, but simply because you have chosen a profession that is the perfect storm of having lots of interaction with people and is viewed as having deep pockets.  A lot of other professions have one or the other (software engineers – perceived as wealthy, no societal interaction; school teachers – Lots of interaction, no money), but you unfortunately get the full brunt of the worst our society has to offer.

Despite the fact that only 30% of medical lawsuits result in payments to the plaintiffs (2), there is almost always a serious cost in the amount of  time, stress, lost sleep and hours of work that are experienced by  physicians during a lawsuit.  One study found that “Surgeons involved in a recent lawsuit were more likely to suffer from depression and burnout, including feelings of emotional exhaustion and detachment, a low sense of accomplishment and even thoughts of suicide (3).”  Consider the experience of Dr. Pauline W. Chen as expressed in a recent New York Times article:

“… in the weeks after that telephone call (regarding the lawsuit) I couldn’t help questioning myself, going over the case in my mind as soon as I woke up, then again and again late into the night. I froze with fear every time I was asked for my opinion on a diagnosis or treatment plan and became a master at evasion, littering my assessments and write-ups with words like “maybe,” “perhaps” and “will await further work-up.” And I wondered if my colleagues knew, if the blot on my record had already soaked through the fabric of my professional reputation.” (3)

This is a serious problem.  A problem that is not going to go away by simply hoping that you get to be a part of that special 25%.  There are things you can do as a physician to limit your risk and exposure to lawsuits, but they require your being aware and proactive.

If you want to learn more about what you can do to stop the threat of lawsuits in your career, give Legally Mine.  We will teach you about the steps you can take as a physician to end the threat today.

Give Legally Mine a call at 800-375-2453 or send an email to


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