According to the Medical Malpractice Center, there are 15,000 to 19,000 cases of medical malpractice filed each year in the U.S. If this isn’t daunting enough, this RAND study finds that 75% of physicians in low-risk specialties and 99% in high-risk specialties will face a malpractice claim by the age of 65. It is absolutely imperative that measures are taken to protect yourself from a claim and ensure you are receiving the highest quality legal counsel. Below are some first steps for protection against malpractice:
If you didn’t write it down, you didn’t do it, so make sure your documentation is complete. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the statute of limitations for malpractice claims is generally two years but can be up to six in some states. This means details are not always easy to remember, so having proper documentation will help to avoid the many I-don’t-knows that would otherwise weaken your defense. This documentation should include major decisions that impacted the course of care, dosages, patient vitals, relevant signatures, and even the reasoning that led to the choices that were made.
Even the most mundane medical procedures come with risk, and it’s important to be upfront with every patient about potential complications. This will decrease the likelihood that anyone is blindsided by a particular outcome, and should make it less likely that they will feel a need to file a claim.
If an unfavorable outcome was the direct result of a mistake, an apology may be appropriate, followed by a plan to ensure that similar mistakes are never repeated. This plan should be shared in basic, non-technical terms with the patient and/or relevant family. Consider consultation with risk management or your private membership association where applicable before issuing a statement of apology. According to research from the National Institutes of Health, of respondents who felt legal proceedings could have been prevented, nearly 40% stated that if an apology had been issued they would have felt no need to file a claim. Interacting with affected parties after an unfavorable outcome is extraordinarily difficult, but it could lead to less pain down the road.
If you would like to learn about our services, membership, or if you are currently facing a malpractice claim, contact us immediately.