Medical Malpractice suits result in significant distress. We preach regularly about all of the actions that physicians should take to avoid getting sued but the fact is “good doctors” get sued. In addition to giving consideration to state laws, structure of practice, patient safety, practice standards (all covered in other blog topics), a physician should make asset protection planning a way of life from the day the physician commences practice.
We preach regularly about asset protection planning but given that we have seen a rise in lawsuits on questionable claims, we are going to revisit both strategies to avoid malpractice claims and steps that all physicians should be taking on a regular basis to protect themselves in the event the physician or a partner is sued.
We will cover a variety of topics in detail in other blogs or on our website but here is a quick list in the area of asset protection planning.
*Put your estate plan in order before your first day of practice. Good estate planners develop a plan that considers where you are now (which might be a lot of student loan debt) to where you are going.. You will have a retirement plan, a house and assets to protect. Start right away. If you wait until a claim gets made some day, in most states, you are too late. If you are many years into practice without a solid estate plan, do one now. Include asset protection planning discussions as part of your plan.
*Know your state’s laws regarding malpractice insurance. Understand your exposure. Understand your exposure for the acts of others. Get a personal attorney who reports to you and who has expertise in health care law and personal planning.
*Understand your malpractice insurance. Go over the policy line by line and be clear about what is covered and where coverage ends.
*Take your personal insurance seriously. Consider all types of potential liability. Professional liability is not the only risk to your assets. Consider the employee who gets in an automobile accident while driving to the hospital and kills a carload of engineers.
*If you choose private practice, spend time with a knowledgeable lawyer discussing the benefits of professional corporations as compared to the other options. Serious consideration should be given to maximum liability protection. Tax benefits can be achieved in most entity forms in the current climate.
*Asset protection planning has become a term of art for those of us who do health care law and estate planning. There are numerous ways to achieve asset protection. All of them require that asset protection planning be a way of life. Again, planning after a claim is made is too late.
More detailed articles will be available here and at our website over the next few months.
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