“My Patient is Suing Me for Malpractice. What Should I Do First?”
It’s a shock to receive a notice of a patient’s intent to sue or to be served with a legal complaint that names you in a medical malpractice lawsuit.
First, don’t panic – especially if you have strong medical malpractice coverage.
Here are five initial steps to start navigating the complex and often lengthy experience of a liability lawsuit (from a 5-star-rated independent medical malpractice broker).
What To Do If You Are Sued For Medical Malpractice
1. If You’ve Been Sued, Call Your Medical Malpractice Insurance Carrier Immediately
Important: Don’t discuss the details of your case with anyone until you’ve met with your medical malpractice insurance carrier and your attorney.
Even after you’ve spoken with them, any details you share with colleagues or friends can become discoverable evidence and may be used against you in court by the plaintiff’s attorney.
Your first call must be to your insurance carrier as soon as you receive any type of legal correspondence that indicates a patient is suing for medical malpractice. Be prepared to immediately send copies of all legal notices and correspondence to your carrier.
Most medical malpractice insurance carriers will provide a defense attorney with experience defending their policyholders in liability lawsuits, and will pay the cost of all legal fees.
The sooner you notify your insurance carrier, the sooner the company’s attorney can become familiar with your case and start to build a strong defense.
2. Do Not Call or Contact the Patient, the Patient’s Family, or the Attorney
Important: Although you may feel shock, anger, or distress about your patient’s medical complaint or injury, do not call or contact the patient or anyone related to the case to explain what happened, apologize, or for any reason. Anything you say may be used against you in court by the plaintiff’s attorney.
3. Review the Patient’s Medical Records and Make Them Available
Important: When reviewing the patient’s medical records, DO NOT make any changes or corrections even if you remember something that you or your staff did not record, or mistakenly entered, at the time of treatment or when the incident in question happened.
Altering the medical records in any way, regardless of the intent, can be seen by a jury as detrimental to your credibility. Moreover, the plaintiff’s attorney may infer that you are trying to cover up or destroy evidence of medical mistakes.
Your patient’s medical records will be under scrutiny by both your attorney and the plaintiff’s attorney, and they are typically the first type of evidence requested. Having them readily available can help avoid any delays in your case.
Also, since you will likely be questioned in court, prepare for your testimony with a thorough review of the patient’s medical record so that you have expert knowledge of the details of your patient’s case.
4. Review Your Medical Malpractice Insurance Policy
Call your medical malpractice insurance broker with any questions – we are your ally during this time and can provide you with the extra peace of mind you need.
Questions we answer when a doctor is sued for malpractice often include:
- confirming what exactly your medical malpractice insurance covers or may not cover,
- ensuring that coverage limits will not exceed damages paid to the plaintiff if the case is found in their favor
- verifying the policy regarding making a settlement as an alternative to a jury trial
Discuss with your carrier, or feel free to reach out to a MEDPLI insurance broker to answer your questions if you obtained your policy through us.
5. Know That You’re Not Alone
If you are being sued for medical malpractice, know you are not alone. Even the most experienced and competent physicians and surgeons will likely face a medical liability lawsuit or settlement at least once in their careers.
According to a 2023 report from the American Medical Association (AMA), 31.2% of all U.S. physicians indicated that they had been previously sued for medical malpractice at some point during their career as of 2022.
The AMA report also revealed that general surgeons, orthopedic surgeons, and OB/GYNs were the most consistent specialties sued for malpractice throughout their careers.
Resources: Learn More About Navigating Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
Be Prepared For a Lawsuit With Strong Medical Malpractice Coverage
MEDPLI specializes in helping physicians and surgeons in high-risk specialties be well prepared for the future with robust medical malpractice policies from A-rated carriers.
Even if you’re seeking new coverage after a medical malpractice lawsuit or settlement, we can help you find the policy you need.
Get a quote from an independent MEDPLI insurance broker now or call 800-969-1339.