Being sued for malpractice, especially for the first time, can be an unsettling and frustrating experience. The consequences of a lost case can range from an increase in future insurance premiums to a health department investigation which could affect your license. So it is imperative that you immediately report a malpractice claim to your professional liability insurance carrier and retain an attorney specializing in the defense of medical malpractice cases in order to protect your interests.
With so much at stake, it is very important that you work closely with your attorney to defend the claim. A collaboration with your attorney will afford you the best opportunity to obtain favorable results. To that end, here are a few suggestions that we believe will be particularly helpful in forging that relationship effectively.
Meet with your attorney early
Experience shows that meeting with a lawyer within two weeks of the commencement of the lawsuit is important. If you have never been sued before, this early meeting is an opportunity for the lawyer to explain the litigation process to you.
This meeting also provides you with the opportunity to explain to the lawyer the medical care that was provided to the patient. The patient’s record can be reviewed and you can relay information that may not be contained in the record. All information about the patient and his or her family, the care rendered by you and other defendants, if any, is important.
Meeting early also means that your recollection of the events may be sharper than if the meeting is delayed for months.
Prepare for your deposition
A deposition is a question and answer session conducted under oath. The lawyer for the plaintiff asks you questions. It is one of the most critical parts of the litigation process. You cannot win your case at your deposition, but you can damage your chances for a favorable outcome.
Your preparation has two major components. The first is that you review in detail all your records, including any hospital records where you participated in the patient’s treatment.
The second is to meet with your lawyer for an extensive discussion of the medico-legal issues. Except in the rarest of cases, it is not sufficient to meet briefly with your attorney immediately prior to your deposition.
It is often best to meet three or four days in advance. An early meeting provides time to brush up on any loose ends, and a meeting relatively close to the deposition will keep the matter fresh in your mind.
At that time, you and your lawyer will extensively examine the issues that will be the focus of the deposition. He or she can help you phrase your answers to be concise and accurate.
Thorough preparation will be evident to the attorney for the plaintiff and you will be sending a message that you are serious about defending yourself. You should be so well prepared that at the end of your deposition, you will be in a position to tell your attorney that your preparation was more focused and comprehensive than the plaintiff attorney’s questions.