The odds are that you will be sued for malpractice during your career. If a patient receives a bad result, regardless of the cause, the patient will likely consider filing a malpractice case against you. This article provides you with some guidance on what to do if you are sued.
First, immediately forward the lawsuit to your malpractice insurance carrier so that they can arrange for a lawyer to file an answer to the lawsuit. If you do not timely answer the lawsuit, you will lose your case.
Place your patient's chart in a separate location. Do not change, add or conceal anything in the chart. Doing so will greatly increase the chance that you will lose your case and increase the award to the plaintiff. Maintain in a separate file all correspondence between your office, your malpractice carrier and your attorney to decrease the chance that communications will be inadvertently given to the other side.
Do not communicate with anyone except your insurance carrier and your lawyer about the specifics of the lawsuit. Do not talk with the patient, the patient's family or the patient's attorney. Do not talk with other doctors, nurses or employees involved in the case. If you do, the plaintiff's attorney will argue that you are influencing the testimony of the witnesses.
Communicate with your attorney. Tell your attorney your thoughts and concerns about the lawsuit. You know the facts of what happened, the attorney does not. Expect your attorney to keep you informed of developments. Listen to your attorney's advice. Allow your attorney to handle the legal aspects of the case.
Mentally prepare yourself that the case will likely last two to three years. The case will not simply "go away." The first phase of the case will he very active. You will have to help your attorney answer the lawsuit and the written questions and requests for documents the plaintiff serves on you. There will then likely be a lull of a few months before the plaintiff seeks to take your deposition. At this point, you will need to work closely with your attorney to make sure you are prepared. You should thoroughly review your records, understand the plaintiff's allegations against you, and meet with your attorney to prepare for the deposition. There will likely be another significant pause of several months while other discovery takes place.
At the end of the discovery phase, the parties may consider mediation, which is a voluntary attempt to resolve the case without a trial. If mediation is unsuccessful, the last stage will be an actual trial. A medical malpractice trial usually takes one to two weeks. Your presence at the trial will be required.
Finally, deal with your feelings about the case. It is likely that you are going to be angry, disillusioned and may even doubt yourself. Do not value your self-worth on the outcome of the case. You, your family, your friends and your patients know your worth regardless of the outcome of this case. Hopefully, you will never have to deal with a lawsuit, but the odds are that you will. If that happens, take these steps to help obtain the best possible outcome.
Richard G. Tisinger, Jr. is a partner at Tisinger Vance, P.C. He may be contacted at (770) 214-5112, or you can e-mail him at email@example.com.