Archives: September 2010

Medical liability: Lawsuit chances take a toll

Our actions are influenced even when the odds are in our favor. So we save receipts (tax audit risk, 1 in 100), change the smoke detector battery (fire-related fatality odds, 1 in 1,235), and think twice about standing in the rain (chance of being struck by lightning, 1 in 6,250). When it comes to the chances physicians face in terms of being sued, a new AMA report shows they can expect a lawsuit not as matter of possibility, but of probability. More than half — almost 61% — of physicians older than 55 report having been sued. The behaviors that result from those odds should come as no surprise — such as defensive medicine and practice decisions to shield the doctor from risk. And those actions can significantly affect the cost of care and patient access. The AMA found that overall, 42.2% of the 5,825 surveyed physicians had been sued, with nearly a quarter of them hit with lawsuits twice or more. Obstetrician-gynecologists were among the most likely to be sued, and the measures they have taken as a result are predictable. In a 2009 survey, nearly a third of ob-gyns reported cutting back on high-risk obstetric patients, one of…

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Medical groups call to stop tax deduction for trial lawyers

The American Medical Association (AMA) and 90 other medical organizations on Thursday sent a letter to the Treasury Department expressing their opposition to a change in tax policy that would allow trial lawyers to deduct certain litigation expenses. “Changing the tax policy to allow trial lawyers to deduct court costs and other expenses would cost taxpayers $1.5 billion and increase the cost of health care in our nation,” former AMA President J. James Rohack, said in prepared remarks. “This change would encourage trial attorneys to file more lawsuits.” The Treasury is looking to change a provision in the tax code that would allow trial lawyers to deduct certain expenses for contingency cases in the year they are paid, which is when most businesses deduct expenses. Currently, trial lawyers can only deduct these expenses after their client fails to reimburse them. Groups like the American Association for Justice argue that clients are rarely expected to reimburse a law firm for expenses incurred and that attorneys should be able to deduct those costs from their taxes in the year they are paid. Rohack argues the tax change will lead to more lawsuits and force doctors to take additional precautions to ensure against…

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