Practice of Medicine

Article

What Happens if I Get Sued?

February 7, 2020

It’s something every physician fears, and an unfortunate reality of the healthcare profession: being sued for medical malpractice. According to the Medscape Malpractice Report 2019, 59% of responding physicians had been named in a malpractice suit, either individually or with others.  

While the experience can often be stressful and frustrating, knowing what to expect and what will be expected of you can help alleviate anxiety and keep you focused on your work.

The first thing you should do upon receipt of a summons is notify your insurance company. In fact, it’s a good idea to notify your insurance company any time you have an unexpected outcome that could result in being sued, even if you haven’t received a summons. They may be able to offer solutions for resolving the situation before it escalates.

The next step is retaining an attorney. Your insurance provider will advise you on the process for selecting counsel – because the insurer holds most or all of the financial risk, they frequently reserve the right to choose who your attorney will be. Remember, while it’s most likely your first time being sued, your insurance company has been through the process countless times, has established relationships with leading attorneys and can appoint the most appropriate one for your case.

At this point, your insurance company will be actively reviewing your case to determine what happened and offer guidance on your best path forward. Should you settle the case or proceed to trial? Depending on your policy terms, the decision about whether or not to settle – known as “consent to settle” – may not be yours. Some insurance companies retain that right or, if you’re covered under your employer’s policy, it will be up to them.

Here are some additional things to keep in mind if you’re sued:

  • Time is of the essence. Report the incident or lawsuit to your insurance company immediately, talk to your attorney as soon as possible and supply any needed documentation right away. 
  • Don’t try to rewrite history. While you may be tempted to update the patient’s records with additional information, don’t. The records are now part of the case, and altering them in any way would be considered tampering with evidence.
  • Keep things quiet. Talk openly and candidly to your attorney about the case, but otherwise do not discuss it with anyone unless advised by your attorney to do so.
  • Use the help available. Your insurance company may offer programs or resources to prepare you for trial or support you during the process. Check your policy or contact your agent to find out.

Disclaimer

The information provided in this resource does not constitute legal, medical or any other professional advice, nor does it establish a standard of care. This resource has been created as an aid to you in your practice. The ultimate decision on how to use the information provided rests solely with you, the PolicyOwner.