You’ve just been served with a summons or complaint for medical malpractice. You are shocked – and frankly, enraged that this patient – or their family – would turn on you.
6 Things you need to do when faced with a medical malpractice lawsuit
- First get past the emotion of the lawsuit. People sue for many reasons including their belief that they were treated improperly and suffered pain, suffering or disability because of it. They may be suing over the loss of a loved one as an expression of their grief or because they feel guilty they didn’t do more for the loved one. Or they may be suing simply to get money. Whatever the reason, you need to get past the emotion and deal with the lawsuit in a dispassionate, controlled and rational manner.
- The second thing to do is call your insurance company and either request a specific medical malpractice attorney or have one assigned to your case. You need to have an attorney in whom you have confidence. You may be a good, even great physician but you are probably not a good lawyer. You are the medical expert in your case and you will need to educate your attorney on the medical issues and your reasons for giving the care that you gave. Remember though, that the lawyer is the legal expert designated to lead you through the foreign and frightening maze of legal discovery and, ultimately, perhaps a trial.
- Meet with your attorney early in the case and be honest in your assessment of your patient – the plaintiff – and the care he or she received from you and from other health care givers. It is essential that you be totally honest. Your attorney cannot represent you if he or she does not have the facts – all of the correct facts.
- Pull your office records, if you have any, and review them but do not change, delete or add anything to the record, no matter how trivial you think it is. To do so is fraudulent and can make a good case bad and a bad case worse. If you feel the need to add or explain something in the records, do so in a separate memo marked “Confidential for my Attorney.” This allows the attorney to keep that memo confidential, meaning your attorney may not have to disclose the contents to the plaintiff’s counsel.
- Do not discuss the case with anyone other than your attorney or their staff. However tempting, don’t talk to the other treating physicians, other doctors with whom you are friends or your friends.
- Do not go to the Medical Records Department and get a copy of the hospital record yourself. Your attorney will do that through proper legal channels.
Remember, you gave the care you did because you thought it was the correct care at the time, even if the patient turned out to have a different condition or to have needed different care. Attorneys often deal with this and will help you handle this as you defend your case. Your attorney may recommend settlement to you or decide that the case is one you should defend to the last day. In either case, discuss all your options with your attorney.And finally, keep calm! Life goes on even if you are sued.
McKenna Storer medical malpractice attorneys of McKenna Storer to work for you. For questions about this medical topic or any other health care law concerns, contact Julie Ramson at McKenna Storer.
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