Last month, New York State Governor Patterson and the NY legislature agreed to remove the limitations on legal fees for medical malpractice attorneys. This will result in larger legal fee awards for plaintiff lawyers who target doctors, hospitals and other medical professionals. Insurance companies will soon be paying bigger legal fee awards, which will cause medical malpractice insurance rates to rise, yet again.
Plaintiffs already have an incentive to sue a doctor: doctors are perceived as wealthy “deep pockets”. Moreover, plaintiffs often believe that a doctor’s insurance company will offer some money in settlement to make the case go away. Now, after the legislative change removing the maximum legal fee awards, plaintiff’s attorneys have similar incentives to sue doctors.
We’ve witnessed the “insurance crisis” for most of this decade and have written about it before. We represent scores of doctors across the country, and have protected their assets from litigious patients and their predatory lawyers.
Doctors must take steps to protect themselves from lawsuits.
To fend off a plaintiff and his attorney, the best strategy is to discourage the lawsuit in the first place. Typical contingency lawyers start out with the expectation that they are bringing an action against a wealthy, deep pocket physician.
The sooner they learn that the defendant has no attachable assets, the sooner their strategy will change and the lawyers will take whatever they can get from an insurance settlement, without bothering the doctor personally.
The process brings malpractice insurance back to doing what it is supposed to do — cover the doctor rather than invite the lawsuit.
Domestic asset protection (for example, a family limited partnership) will, if done properly, be 100% effective against all future claims, and should serve to discourage future lawsuits. Tax compliant offshore asset protection will absolutely protect assets against all claims.
Asset protection is designed to give defendants (including doctors and any other professional in a high-liability industry) leverage to force a favorable settlement within the parameters of their malpractice coverage. One caveat: it is imperative that physicians protect themselves before the commencement of a lawsuit.