Your Malpractice Advisor: Ten Things Never to Do at Your Trial

Ilene R. Brenner, MD


January 18, 2011

In This Article

Here's How Trouble Arises

The following is an example of a line of questioning from a plaintiff's attorney that shows how simple answers can lead to danger:

Did you consider cholecystitis as a possible diagnosis in my client? YES
Did you do an ultrasound to confirm this possibility? NO
Can right-sided abdominal pain be evidence of cholecystitis? YES
Did the patient have right-sided abdominal pain? YES
Can you get fever in cholecystitis? YES
Did my client have a fever? YES
Can you get an increased heart rate in cholecystitis? YES
Did the patient have an increased heart rate? YES
Did you call in a surgeon? NO
Did you admit the patient? NO

As you can see, the plaintiff's attorney is creating what seems like a strong case against you, and there is little you can do to prevent that when all you can say is "yes," "no," and "I don't know."

Don't freak out about this. Your attorney will put it into perspective in your direct examination where you will be able to talk intelligently about each point that seemed to put you in a negative light.

Think of a trial as a football game. The other team will score points -- perhaps a lot of them. But it doesn't matter who was winning at halftime. It only matters what happens by the end. And one advantage for the defendant is having the last word.


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