3 costly mistakes to avoid in malpractice cases

Doctors can be their own worst enemy in a malpractice case.

Doctors can be their own worst enemy when it comes to malpractice lawsuits.

Doctors can sabotage their own defense with costly mistakes that can result in a guilty verdict, or push attorneys to settle a claim that they could win, according to Medscape (sub. req.). Here are three ways the publication said physicians can put themselves in the best light:

Don’t be arrogant or treat others, including the opposition attorney, with contempt. For example, consider the case of a doctor, who when asked by a plaintiff’s attorney in a deposition why he performed a cesarean section, told the lawyer he didn’t think he was smart enough to understand his answer. "The doctor's arrogance was so severe that we feared letting him get anywhere near a jury. We settled instead," Mark Fogg, a veteran defense attorney and general counsel of COPIC Insurance Co., told the publication. Instead try to be sympathetic and likable, which can influence a jury.


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Show empathy for the patient who was injured. Doctors may avoid a lawsuit in the first place by showing patients and their family that they care. After a poor outcome, don’t avoid a patient or his or her family.  "Steering clear of a family after a bad result may be understandable, but it's the dumbest move a doctor can make," said Rick Boothman, chief risk officer at the University of Michigan Health System and a malpractice defense attorney. 

Cooperate with your attorneys and insurers. It may sound like common sense, but some doctors don’t work with their attorneys. Return phone calls and realize you may need to spend time helping craft your own defense.

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