Why Memorial Day increases physicians’ personal risk

May 22, 2018

Understand why the “100 deadliest days” could affect physicians and practice staff personally and professionally.

We’ve consistently tried to get physicians to think beyond just malpractice risk and be realistic and proactive about all the risks, including personal ones like being a parent, car owner, home owner, etc., and have shared specific stories of what happens when doctors overlook those risks  and try to plan after a tragedy like a car accident, creating even more liability.

What are the 100 deadliest days?

Organizations like the National Safety Council (NSC) issue annual warnings on the so-called “100 deadliest days of the year,” the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day. AAA states that there were more than 1,600 people killed in auto accidents involving teen drivers during this period over the last few years alone.

According to their reports, three factors commonly result in deadly crashes for teen drivers:

• Distraction: Distraction plays a role in nearly six out of 10 teen crashes, four times as many as official estimates based on police reports. The top distractions for teens include talking to other passengers in the vehicle and interacting with a smartphone.

• Not buckling up: In 2015, the latest data available, 60 percent of teen drivers killed in a crash were not wearing a safety belt. Teens who buckle up significantly reduce their risk of dying or being seriously injured in a crash.

• Speeding: Speeding is a factor in nearly 30 percent of fatal crashes involving teen drivers. A recent AAA survey of driving instructors found that speeding is one of the top three mistakes teens make when learning to drive.

Similarly, the NSC lists the reasons that these tragedies spike: driving faster, more free time, more recreational driving, drinking and drug use with older teens, staying out later, and driving with friends (just one teen passenger increases crash risk by a shocking 44 percent).

Here are some specific things parents-including those who work at medical practices- can do to help and protect themselves (this applies to professionals and their children of any age, including college-age children):

1. Be heavily insured including a personal liability umbrella policy of $1 million or more. If some say they can’t afford this, they probably also can’t afford to drive or have their kids driving, as the exposure to a lawsuit judgment above the limits of the policy would certainly wipe them out and could be a multiple of 100 times the cost of the insurance.

2. Have enforced rules including a parent-teen driving contract that makes driving a privilege that requires adherence to a strict set of rules, including driving curfews, no calling or texting while driving, and no drinking and driving.

3. Spend time driving with teens every week to see what they do, and where they need correction and reinforcement, including wearing a seatbelt. Nearly 50 percent of the teens killed in auto accidents are not wearing a seatbelt.

4. Consider checking up on young drivers and knowing where vehicles are by using GPS tracking devices or driving monitors that show excessive speed, etc.

5. If still leasing your vehicle through your medical practice despite my years of warnings, please knock it off. Physicians take a dangerous personal vehicle and link it and all associated liability for any accident that it may be involved in-regardless of who is driving-to their income-producing business for the value of a “tax write-off” for the vehicle expense. This is horrible advice.

Finally, remember that cars aren’t the only risk to manage. Family members may also be using someone else’s home and pool, vacation home, recreational vehicles, boats, firearms, etc.

If property has been “negligently entrusted” to a child, regardless of their age, the physician could be held liable for any related harm and be named as a co-defendant.

Who is a better target with a deeper pocket, a physician or a physician’s kid? This liability should be expected whether explicitly aware of or permitted use of the property or not. If something goes wrong it will be claimed that the physician either failed to control and supervise the property and access to it, or he/she permitted the harm by giving permission.

Attorney Ike Devji has practiced in the areas of asset protection, risk management, and wealth preservation law exclusively for the last 15 years. He helps protect a national client base with over $5 billion in personal assets that includes serval thousand physicians and is a contributing author to multiple books for physicians and a frequent medical conference speaker and CME presenter.