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    Legal tips to avoid a lawsuit from knocking on your door

    Detailed documentation, informed consent may protect your practice from medico-legal risks

    Take-home message: Having a detailed paper-trail of your patient cases not only protects you should a lawsuit arise, but it may prevent also prevent a lawsuit in the first place.

    San Francisco—Insurance is one of those necessary evils—you have to have it, and you hope you never need it.

    Professional insurance is no different, and luckily for ophthalmologists, most will never need to use their insurance. However, that does not mean there are no medico-legal risks involved with the specialty.

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    The average ophthalmologist will have “maybe two or three claims opened against them over a 35-year career,” said Paul Weber, JD, vice president of risk management/legal, Ophthalmic Mutual Insurance Co. (OMIC), San Francisco. “Most of the time, those claims are dismissed without a payment.”

    In the case of surgical error cases, “OMIC is very good at defending that the error was a known complication of a procedure,” he said.

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    According to OMIC statistics, about 20% of the claims opened every year are closed with an indemnity payment—meaning one of every five claims will result in a payment to the plaintiff (patient). Most are dismissed without a payment, and in OMIC’s experience, only about 8% of the cases will go to a jury trial, Weber said.

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    The average indemnity payment is about $164,000, he added, but the median is much less at about $82,500.

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