Facing a lawsuit? Take the right steps early


Catherine Flynn, medical liability defense attorney

Catherine Flynn

"It’s like that kid game of telephone where you may something to the nurses and then a year later, they’re deposed, and their recollection is very different,” Ms. Flynn said in an interview. “It turns into something that you did not say.”

Your spouse is the exception. Most states protect conversations among spouses and bar husbands and wives from having to testify against their spouse.

• Do alert staff to the lawsuit and track any document requests. Following a lawsuit notice, inform staff that a claim has been filed by a patient – without going into detail. Be alert to document requests by nonpatients and make sure your attorney is aware of such requests. For example, some plaintiffs hire a private investigator to contact the medical practice and attempt to obtain records, Mr. Moroney said. In other cases, the plaintiff’s attorney or their paralegal tries to get copies of the medical chart or billing records.

• Don’t release any patient data to third parties. Ensure that staff members do not provide any patient information to the plaintiff’s attorney or other third parties, Mr. Moroney said. All relevant records should go through your attorney. No questions about the patient or the circumstances of the complaint should be divulged by the doctor or staff members to any third party, he said.

• Do seek emotional support from family and friends. Facing a lawsuit can be draining, both physically and mentally. Make time for self-care and lean on loved ones when needed, Mr. Fitzer said. Sharing your feelings – without going into detail about the case – can help relieve stress and reduce the emotional strain of being sued.

• Don’t isolate yourself. “This can be an isolating experience,” Mr. Fitzer said. “You need support. You need reinforcements. Take care of yourself and your family – they are your biggest source of support.”

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