It’s Friday afternoon and as your last client has left the office, you dream of your weekend getaway to your vacation home for a little relaxation time with family. Your wishes to unwind over the weekend quickly vanish, as you are served with a lawsuit at 4:45 PM.
To most of us, getting served with a lawsuit can be an extremely scary experience. With over 70,000 U.S. lawsuits being filed daily, it’s possible that every one of us will be served at least once during our lifetime.
This article is dedicated to those first hours after you are served and provides some helpful hints.
First Response Tips
If the lawsuit involves a patient, try to reach your malpractice carrier even though it’s Friday night. If you do get a hold of your carrier, chances are they will collect all the information and assign an attorney to you. They will also tell you many of the following points detailed below.
If the case doesn’t involve malpractice, you must find a local attorney. If you already have one and he or she can be reached at night, by all means, make that call. If not, you might have to wait until Monday morning.
In either event, it is imperative that you follow the below suggestions to keep yourself as far away from the litigation fires as possible.
Do not discuss the case with anyone except your attorney, including staff members, colleagues, friends or relatives.
Avoid the enemy.
Do not contact the plaintiff or the plaintiff’s attorney even if the attorney asks you to do so “in order to avoid a lawsuit.” Wait to discuss the case until you have legal representation. Any contact must be between your attorney and the plaintiff’s attorney.
Create a “legal” file.
Locate all the information regarding this lawsuit including your insurance policy documents and contact numbers, BUT NOT the patient or employee file. After creating this file, make sure to document every call and action.
Locate the patient or employee file.
Locate and review the appropriate files, but DO NOT change or alter them. The worst thing you can do is alter the records, even if it’s for an innocent reason such as making the handwriting more legible. Any alteration can be viewed as an attempt to deceive.
Also, make sure you DO NOT keep the patient’s file with your “legal File” as the patient’s record may be subpoenaed. If the two files are together, your legal file will be included.
Keep a positive mental attitude.
I know it will be difficult, but it’s important to keep a positive mental attitude after being sued. Believe it or not, there is a widely-recognized affliction called the “Medical Malpractice Stress Syndrome” and it is important to realize that it’s not beneficial to you, your family, your practice or your case to get angry, irritable or suffer from anxiety.
In closing, remember that it’s best to handle a lawsuit like any other business transaction — get professionals involved and let them do their job for you.