What do American doctors do if they find themselves facing a potential malpractice suit? First, make two phone calls: one to your insurance carrier and one to your attorney. The good news for doctors is that very few malpractice cases go to trial and even fewer are won by the plaintiff. Malpractice claims are extremely common, with most doctors– be they LASIK doctors in Washington DC or even DC’s best plastic surgeons— experiencing them before age 55. However, this is still a very serious matter and one in which you would be wise to speak to an attorney. You will likely be faced with a lot of questions. Keep your answers short and honest, restraining emotion as much as possible. It is easy to find a lawyer anywhere in the world with NYU Global Law resources, so spend time choosing a lawyer you trust.
Will I go to trial?
There are many factors in your favor as a doctor: only 8% of malpractice suits make it to trial. More than ⅔ are dropped and a quarter are settled. Malpractice suits are also subject to a statute of limitations. If enough time passes, between the Washington DC LASIK surgery, Washington DC liposuction, etc. and the filing of a claim, the patient cannot sue. When you speak with your insurance carrier, you may be asked to provide documentation. It is wise to cooperate fully and not alter any medical records or information in any way. If your plaintiff’s attorney contacts you, however, you should not speak with the attorney, but direct him/her to your insurance carrier or attorney instead. If your former patient moves forward with a lawsuit, you may have to face a deposition and trial.
How do I answer questions?
Again, in each stage, you will be asked questions. These questions will be designed to confuse you and paint you as dishonest or ignorant. All of your answers should be reviewed with your attorney before spoken before a judge, jury, or opposing counsel. Prepare to answer questions by studying all records of your interaction with the plaintiff before, during, and after your DC LASIK, DC septorhinoplasty, or other treatment. You should be able to answer truthfully about what actions you took and explain why. Your attorney will advise you to keep answers brief but honest. Do not volunteer any information that does not directly answer the question. Keeping answers to a succinct “yes” or “no” whenever possible is advisable. However, do not be too quick to agree with general questions such as “Wouldn’t a doctor generally/usually/normally do xyz?” Do not readily agree with leading questions such as “Do you agree that…” either. If a question is unclear, do not make an attempt at an answer until it has been clarified. Above all, do not appear emotional, as this may damage your credibility.
If a malpractice case is not dropped altogether, it will likely be settled. Attorney’s fees are quite costly for insurance companies, especially if the case is brought to trial. However, a settlement will remain on your malpractice record. If the case does go to trial and the plaintiff wins, you may make an appeal to the judge, which will further draw out the process, encouraging the plaintiff to settle. In the end, the insurance provider will be the one paying the damages, unless the plaintiff specifically requests that the doctor pay a portion, or the award exceeds insurance coverage.
If you are being sued for malpractice, being nervous is natural, but the odds are in your favor. The law recognizes that doctors are human and make mistakes. Simply remember to work closely and candidly with your insurance provider and attorney, and keep all your answers to opposing counsel succinct, honest, and calm.