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Today is National Doctor's Day, so we are turning our focus to what a medical malpractice case can be like from the doctor's perspective.
Being sued for any reason can be a scary prospect, but when it's a lawsuit regarding your professional performance, it can be doubly frightening. So here are a few legal and procedural elements doctors can expect when defending a medical malpractice claim.
Doctors should keep excellent notes of medical care, especially when it comes to conversations with patients and the reasoning behind courses of treatment. It's also a good idea for doctors to be familiar with notes from nurses and other medical professionals to be aware of any other patient issues or complaints. The stronger the documentation of the care, the more difficult it may be for an expert or a jury to find fault with medical treatment.
While a doctor's initial response to a complaint or a summons might be to fix it herself, this instinct could get her into trouble. Many hospitals have risk management departments or malpractice insurance providers with teams of attorneys experienced in handling lawsuits. Therefore, despite the natural tendency to defend oneself against a claim of poor medical treatment, malpractice cases are best left to the experts.
Talk to your risk management or legal departments immediately and get a plan of action in place. It may be that correct acknowledgement of the problem could lead to a settlement or even a dismissal of the claim. In any case, but it can be very helpful to open the lines of communication early.
Some medical malpractice cases can take years to resolve. So while it can help for doctors to understand the process and know what's expected, they should also accept that usually, it won't be settled overnight.
Often, the best thing doctors can do is be patient, and remain focused on the patients currently in their care rather than worry unnecessarily about a lengthy and complicated legal process that is largely out of their hands.
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