When a Patient Threatens to Sue ...
by Keith Henaman on Wednesday, August 3, 2016
As your malpractice insurance company, NCMIC is always here for you. This is especially important to remember if one of your patients is considering a lawsuit or board complaint. Before you do anything else, call NCMIC.
Call NCMIC if you even suspect that a patient is considering a lawsuit or initiating a complaint against you before your state licensing board (and certainly any time you get a letter from an attorney, a summons or complaint).
Do not underestimate the intuition of your staff in suspecting an issue with a patient. Patients will often tell staff things they would not reveal to their doctors.
NCMIC claims professionals have seen just about every type of malpractice claim possible. Consequently, they have the specialized knowledge needed to identify the best way to safeguard your reputation and protect your practice by:
- 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.
- Ensuring 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 later and neither will your staff. However, if NCMIC deems a lawsuit is possible, we will evaluate the potential claim. We will talk to you and other witnesses while your memory is fresh and preserve pertinent information should litigation occur later.
It’s also essential to keep this information to yourself and not discuss it with family, colleagues or friends. As a Naturopathic Doctor, you resolve patients’ clinical problems every day, so your normal response may be to try to solve this problem, as well. However, this 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 in a different manner, your defense could be harmed and/or your credibility could suffer in court.
You should also avoid contacting the patient who is suing you, as well as his 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.
Moreover, do not coach your employees on what to say about the situation. More often than not, anything you tell your employees will come out during a lawsuit—to the detriment of your defense.
Remember, it is to your benefit to contact NCMIC early if you even have a hunch that a potential lawsuit is looming. You can never be too prepared. You can reach NCMIC's Claims Department at 1-800-242-4052.
- risk management