It’s common to feel anxious when you find out that a family member of, or a former patient has filed a suit against you as a medical practitioner allegedly due to your negligence. As days go by, the unanswered questions are building and worry starts to consume you. Being named in a lawsuit can affect your credibility, as well as your emotional state. If you’re in this situation, here are the things to consider legally if you’ve had a lawsuit filed against you as a medical practitioner:
1. Determine the Cause of Action:
In medical-related cases, malpractice is the common cause of action leading patients and their families to bring a lawsuit against a medical practitioner. As defined, medical malpractice is the negligence or failure to perform a standard of care which results in injury or damage to the patient. When dealing with your patients, you are expected to exercise due care and diligence because if you fail to do so, then you are at risk for legal troubles. In addition, medical malpractice can be a grave accusation against you as a medical practitioner. Hence, it’s imperative for you to verify if indeed you have committed medical malpractice or not. By doing so, you are also protecting your rights under the law. Below are the things you need to know to determine whether malpractice has occurred:
a. The medical practitioner has a duty to the patient:
This means that you are required to render medical services for the patient with the highest standard of care possible. The moment you take care of the medical needs of your patient, you assume a legal duty to ensure a condition of good health for him/her.
b. The medical practitioner’s failure to perform his/her professional duty has caused injury to the patient:
In cases like these, the presence of an injury is essential because if there’s no evidence of injury on the part of the patient, it could indicate no malpractice.
2. Notify Your Malpractice Insurance Carrier:
When you are notified that a medical malpractice case has been filed against you, it’s important that you compose yourself and notify your malpractice insurance carrier to provide you with a competent legal counsel who will represent you in all phases of the litigation. Yes, you heard it right. You may need the assistance of an attorney to defend you since you are allegedly at fault. If you do not have an insurance carrier, get your own lawyer who can help you go through with the whole court proceedings. Your lawyer will accompany you during your court appearances and hearings. Also, do not commit the mistake of disclosing any information about your case to third parties except your attorney.
3. Prepare Your Deposition or Pre-Trial Testimony:
When you are notified of the lawsuit against you, the fact-finding stage begins. At this point, you are expected to provide your deposition or a sworn pre-trial testimony. It is necessary for cross-examinations and written and oral questions until the case will reach its finality. Your attorney during this phase will provide you with tips on how to conduct yourself during the interrogations. You are also guided by your legal counsel as to your former patient’s record and other questions you are most likely to be asked about the case. Information about your personal background, education, and even the way you commonly treat your patients can also be part of the inquiry.
4. Prepare Relevant Information Or Documents On Time:
When information is sought regarding your medical malpractice suit, it is best if you refresh your mind and review your on-the-job manuals and notes. But, you may also be required to submit these documents to courtand the downside here is that these documents can be used as evidence against you. If this is the case, you can consult your lawyer as to the proper steps to be taken. When the court asks you to submit your counter-affidavits and other written testimonies, you have to take note of the time limits as laid down by law so that you’ll not get a default judgment later on. It’s one way of protecting your rights as a party to the case.
5. Be Familiar With The Monetary Claims Associated With The Lawsuit Against You:
When you’re facing a lawsuit for medical malpractice, monetary claims for the damages and injuries caused by you as a medical practitioner may be a demand made by the plaintiff. Yes, it’s common with civil cases like this to request the recovery of compensation for the loss. That is why it’s your right to know how much you may be required to pay for the satisfaction of the monetary judgment in the situation that you lose the case. However, said monetary claims also vary depending on the extent of the injury incurred by the plaintiff. If the plaintiff can prove that there’s malpractice committed on your part, the following are considered in determining the value of the monetary award you are obliged to compensate the plaintiff:
- Emotional and Physical Anguish Suffered by The Patient and The Family
- Loss Of Source Income and Capacity To Earn
- Medical Bills and Other Monetary Expenses About The Injury Caused By The Medical Practitioner’s Negligence
So, when you’re trapped in a situation where you are named as a defendant in a medical malpractice lawsuit – associated with anything from birth injuries to medication errors – you should consider these things legally because at the end of the day your credibility and profession may be at stake.