Lawsuit: 'The Worst Experience Ever' and 'A Total Surprise'

Mark Crane

Disclosures

July 24, 2013

In This Article

Blindsided by a Lawsuit

Nearly three quarters of physicians who were sued said they were astonished to learn that they were being sued. Only 1% said they definitely expected a lawsuit. "Either the physician didn't know that anything was wrong, or they did notice something but didn't expect the patient to sue," says Rosenberg. "There are always situations on a daily basis in a doctor's office where a patient is not happy. A doctor might suspect that the patient had an injury but did not expect that a lawsuit would be filed."

"In our experience, the doctor is usually aware of either an unexpected adverse outcome or an angry patient," said Richard E. Anderson, MD, chairman and CEO of The Doctors Company, the nation's largest professional liability carrier for physicians, based in Napa, California. "They may not have expected a suit, but there's usually some warning of a problem."

"Of the doctors who aren't surprised, there's often a clear medication or communications error they know about and suspect may come back to haunt them," said attorney Rosenberg.

Specialists in particular may be surprised at being sued because they often have no way of knowing whether the patient is doing poorly. "There's not a lot of clinical follow-up in radiology and emergency medicine because the care is episodic," said Dr. Lembitz. "In other situations, some doctors have an inherent denial. There's often a communication breakdown, where the doctor avoids having a difficult conversation with a patient or family after a bad outcome. So they really shouldn't be that surprised when they receive an attorney's letter."

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