An MD/Attorney Reveals: 5 Top Reasons Patients Sue Doctors

Lee S. Goldsmith, MD, LLB


October 23, 2018

In This Article

Is There a Basis for a Valid Lawsuit?

Over the years, I've heard theories about why physicians get sued for medical malpractice. Much of that information has had little relationship to reality. Because my firm has represented both plaintiffs and defendants at the same time—including defending a New York City hospital for about 30 years and representing physicians for other matters—I felt that it was time for an attorney/physician who represents those patients who want to bring suit, and do bring suit, to tell physicians the real reasons why these patients are suing.

During the course of any given month, we average 40 referrals of individuals who wish to bring malpractice suits. The referral sources include the Internet, other attorneys, physicians or other healthcare providers, and prior clients.

Our staff takes the calls and does an intake of the patients' complaints. Those considered to have significant injuries are referred to me for determination as to whether their claims have a basis for a valid (in our opinion) suit. Of the 40 potential malpractice referrals we receive each month, there may be one viable case.

The question is not why one in 40 constitutes a viable case, but rather why we receive 40 calls a month. If my referrals were to drop to 20 a month, I would be starting one case every other month rather than one case every month.

There are five major reasons.

1. Patients Seek Answers That Physicians Don't Give

The number-one reason why patients call is to obtain information. "Why did my wife die?" "Why isn't this knee replacement working?" "I tried talking to my physician but he didn't answer my calls, the staff didn't put me through, I never received answers."

The unanswered: Why? A man in his 50s died after visiting his primary care physician (PCP) twice in 1 week for chest pain. His wife, also a patient of the PCP, went to the office to get answers. The PCP would not see her. She came to our office, and a wrongful death lawsuit was instituted and ultimately settled.

A patient who doesn't receive answers from you will seek information elsewhere. If we give information to your patient, then I have a client I can represent.


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.