Why Lawyers Always Say, "It Depends"

"It depends" can be a frustrating phrase when you're looking for a concrete answer about risk management in your practice. But there's a reason these two words are so popular with lawyers.

“It depends” is not the response anyone is looking for when they ask a question about their potential for risk. But if you’re asking questions like the ones below, many things have to be taken into consideration. 

Can I practice through alternative methods such as telehealth?


This is a state-dependent decision. Check with your state association. (In other words, it depends.)

Our office is closed. Can my patients claim abandonment?


It depends on how abandonment is defined in your state. (Again, it depends.)

Who determines what acute is and when we should stop treatment in this pandemic? 


Some states have issued guidance on what are deemed essential and non-essential medical procedures. Doctors should check their state’s orders to determine whether it has imposed any limitations on his or her practice. (Yup: it depends.) 

I understand the CDC requires health care practitioners who have tested positive to notify all patients seen within the past 14 days but have not seen a specific guideline that DC practices must notify all recent patients if one patient tests positive. 


Chiropractors will be responsible for abiding by the recommendations/guidelines of the local and state Health Department. (Say it with me – “it depends.”) 

If we close our practice because of the hardships of COVID-19, what do we do with the paper patient files?  


Consult with your State Board regarding records retention and closing a practice. Most states have provisions for file preservation and for granting patients access to their records upon closing an office. (I bet you know where we’re going with this… it depends.) 

“It depends” is the only answer that will lead you to learning the facts that govern you, in your state, under your specific scope. “It depends” may be frustrating but recognizing and accepting those two words is going to help you protect yourself and your practice.

Attorney Example

Here’s an example from one of the attorneys on NCMIC’s Defense Counsel:

The Ohio governor issued an order yesterday that will gradually open businesses and health care practices in the state. It has very specific requirements for PPE (ex. - all docs, employees and patients must wear face coverings at all times), the number of people allowed in offices, daily cleaning requirements for offices, the reporting requirements for exposure to COVID-19, and steps an employer must take if there’s been a COVID-19 exposure. An Ohio chiropractor will be inviting liability if she doesn’t comply with these requirements and it means little to the folks in other states.
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