Medical malpractice claims are made against physicians for all kinds of issues arising out of patient care and medical practice. A misdiagnosis or medical mistake can lead to serious consequences when the physician is involved in a divorce or family law matter.
A pending lawsuit for malpractice certainly causes a lawyer, to proceed cautiously, knowing that the physician’s assets and ability to pay for their own living and that of their former spouse and children, if any, can be impaired by the outcome of a malpractice case.
A medical malpractice settlement should not be the liability of the spouse.
As a general rule, the debts of one spouse are not held against the other. In a medical malpractice lawsuit, the physician’s insurance provider pays any settlements or money judgments. However, in some states all the debts and liabilities of one spouse are debts and liabilities of the other spouse if they were incurred during the marriage.
In most medical malpractice situations, the physician has malpractice coverage and their liability policyholder will pay the claims, settlements and judgments against them. Note that malpractice policies have limits and policy rules, which if broken, can render the policy ineffective at defending the individual physician’s claims. So even if there is malpractice coverage the physician and possibly their spouse could be liable for payment of any settlement or money judgment the physician may owe another.
The effect of medical malpractice on future earnings and ability to pay support.
Whether to litigate or settle a medical malpractice claim is a challenging proposition. If the physician settles, they still have a duty to report the settlement to the appropriate medical license and regulation authority. Any medical malpractice complaint, case, settlement or adverse finding can trigger licensing investigation and potential discipline.
If a physician is disciplined in connection with a medical malpractice problem, they can lose their authority to practice medicine for a temporary or longer period. Additional conditions may be required before the physician is clear of disciplinary limitations. The physician’s ability to earn a living and pay support for a spouse or child of the marriage can be affected by licensing and discipline matters.