What to Do When a Patient Might Sue
If you suspect a patient might be considering a lawsuit or formal board complaint, here are the actions you should take - and actions you should avoid.
Posted in Risk Management on Wednesday, October 28, 2020
The first step you should take if you suspect a patient is considering a lawsuit or a complaint against you before your state board (and certainly any time you get a letter from an attorney, a summons or complaint) is to contact PSIC. PSIC claims professionals have seen just about every type of malpractice claim possible and can offer guidance on helping you secure all relevant records. If you don’t secure the proper files and a lawsuit commences years later, it might be impossible to find all of the records. It looks bad in the courtroom if some or all of a record can’t be found.
Additionally, they can help to ensure that all vital testimony is preserved. You might not remember much about the treatment you provided for a particular patient when you go to trial a decade from now and neither will your staff. However, if PSIC deems a lawsuit is probable, we will evaluate the potential claim. We will talk to you and other witnesses while your memory is fresh, and preserve it should litigation occur later. It’s also essential to keep this information to yourself and not discuss it with family, colleagues or friends.
Don't Try to Problem-Solve
Although your normal response may be to try to solve the problem, it is not a good idea when a malpractice allegation or board action is likely. Every person you speak with can become a potential witness. If you say different things or explain things differently to people, your defense could be harmed and/or your credibility could suffer in court.
Don't Contact the Patient
You should also avoid contacting the patient who is suing you, as well as his or her attorney—even when the case involves someone you previously considered a friend or knew professionally. Though your intentions may be benign, a plaintiff’s attorney could misrepresent this contact as a display of guilt, fear or anger. The probability of uttering a potentially damaging statement far outweighs any possible benefit from making such a call.
Don't Coach Your Staff
Moreover, do not coach your staff on what to say about the situation. More often than not, anything you tell them will come out during a lawsuit — to the detriment of your defense.
Learn more about our experienced claims team and the claims process.