What is “Consent to Settle” in Medical Malpractice Cases?

What is “Consent to Settle” in Medical Malpractice Cases?

by / Friday, 06 March 2020 / Published in Medical Malpractice
Lady Justice next to medical malpractice book

Medical malpractice cases can be very complex and difficult to handle. Even if it seems like you’ve experienced a very obvious, clear-cut case of medical negligence, cases can take longer than you might expect to resolve. One reason for that can be because of what’s known as a “Consent to Settle” clause in the doctor’s malpractice insurance policy.

With a Consent to Settle clause, physicians can approve or deny a settlement the insurance company may offer to someone making a claim of medical malpractice. If a doctor doesn’t want the insurance company to offer a claim, the case can go to trial. One reason these clauses exist is to give doctors the ability to deny settlements for frivolous claims where a settlement might reflect poorly on their reputation. However, physicians can also potentially use these clauses to make things more difficult for real victims of negligence.

Forcing delays in a medical malpractice case is one tactic that can be used to try and get malpractice victims to drop their cases. Even if the doctor was clearly negligent and the insurance company knows perfectly well that the doctor would lose if the case went to trial, the doctor can still refuse to agree to a settlement.

However, if a doctor doesn’t want to allow their insurance company to settle a claim and their malpractice insurance policy also includes a Hammer Clause, the insurance company may still be able to put pressure on the doctor to settle. Some, but not all, insurance policies with a Consent to Settle clause also include a Hammer Clause. With a Hammer Clause, the insurance company is allowed to limit the amount of money they would be liable for if the case went to trial and puts the doctor on the hook for any costs incurred beyond that amount.

For example, let’s say a doctor is facing a medical malpractice claim and their insurance company clearly sees that the doctor was at fault and knows that going to trial would only be more expensive in the long run. The insurance company wants to offer a $50,000 settlement, but the doctor doesn’t want to settle. If the malpractice insurance policy includes a Hammer Clause, the insurance company has the ability to tell the doctor that if they insist on going to trial, the doctor will personally be responsible for any expenses beyond the $50,000 the insurance company originally wanted to settle for. So if the case went to trial and the victim was awarded $100,000 in damages, the doctor would be directly liable for half of that verdict.

If you’re a victim of medical malpractice, it’s extremely important to remember that just because an insurance company wants to settle your case, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be offering a fair settlement. Insurance companies want to be able to resolve claims for as little money possible, even if that means shortchanging victims of negligence. They may try to downplay the severity of your injuries and try to dismiss your needs for long-term care. That’s why it’s so important to work with a medical malpractice lawyer. At Goodwin & Scieszka, we’re not afraid to stand up to insurance companies and fight for our clients to get the compensation they need. Contact us today for help with your case.

Image: iStock / ericsphotography