Often when we come across medical malpractice cases, we give all our sympathies to the claimant. But that is always one side of the story. All doctors are conscious of their responsibilities and make sure that they provide good care to the patient. Very few cases of Medical Malpractices are a result of intentional harm or negligence.
As the general perception of society is against a doctor in case of medical malpractice, it becomes vital for the doctors to set up strong defense and prove their innocence. Here are certain medical malpractice defense methods to adopt to build up a strong case.
Here is what you can do?
How to defend medical malpractice case?
As discussed earlier, there are three factors that make a valid case. These factors include:
Obligation of the medical practitioner to discharge duties in certain manner
Proof of the negligence shown by the medical practitioner in discharging duties
Evidence of the fact that the patient was injured following the medical practitioner’s negligence
These factors contribute in making a case valid and strong. Hence, if one has to plan the defense, it is important to weaken these factors and create a doubt about the authenticity of the case. It is important to create strong counter allegations to defend a case.
Self Negligence: The defense lawyers can prove that the patient was negligent towards his own healthcare. He may suggest that the doctor advised for medicines and tests but the patient chose to ignore or delay the advice. Hence, if the negligence of the patient is accepted as contributory negligence, the doctor is no longer the only participant in causing injury to the patient. This aspect weakens the case.
Concealment of Information: If the patient conceals certain information from the doctor then it becomes difficult for the doctor to understand the patient’s health condition and diagnose the cause of his poor health. Concealing information may lead to mis-diagnosis and result in medical malpractice. Hence, if the patient has truly given insufficient information about his health, it can be proved with preliminary medical records. This is another example of contributory negligence.
Informed Consent: Informed consent refers to the consent given by the patient that he is fully aware of the risks associated with medical care and he agrees to the treatments suggested by the doctor. If the doctor has taken this consent prior, and if the defense lawyer is able to prove that the injury is actually a result of the treatments, then the defendant has a strong chance of winning the case. The laws for negligence is no longer applicable to such a case.
Known Risk: There are certain treatments that have typical side effects. Though doctors make sure that the condition of the patient does not worsen due to side effects, it may happen that patients have a weak immune system and fall prey to side effects. If the supposed malpractice is only a side effect of a treatment, then it is considered as known risk and not negligence. The defense lawyers needs to prove that the injury is a possible result of treatment and not negligence.
Appropriate Standard of Care: ‘Standards of Care’ refers to the practices that any reasonable doctor would have adopted under the given medical circumstances. Standard of care differs with the nature of the case. Hence, the defense lawyer can call upon a team of medical experts to evaluate the medical condition and suggest what measures should have been ideally adopted. This report defines the standard of care. The actual measures taken up by the doctor are compared with this report and the deviances are noted. If it is proved that the doctor did everything possible under given conditions to treat the patient then it also proves that there was no negligence ever. The case becomes void if negligence is not proved.
Statute of Limitations: Every case of medical malpractice should be filed within a specific time period. This time period refers to Statute of Limitations that begins from the date of injury or date of discovery and lasts till 2 years or 5 years as per the law. If the claimant fails to file a case after the expiry of this period, then the case becomes obsolete. The defendant can choose to not entertain the case.
Different Reason for Injury: The claimant must submit an evidence known as the ‘burden of proof’. It refers to the facts that the doctor owed the patient the obligation of providing good medical care under doctor-patient relationship. Also, it includes the fact that as the doctor failed in his duties and the injury occurred. The defense lawyers can question this proof by proving that the injury was not a result of the treatments taken at the hospital but occurred due to some other reason. This defense is useful in case of claims reported after a year of treatment.
Why is Defending a Medical Malpractice Claim is Important?
Any doctor who is alleged of conducting a medical malpractice undergoes a lot of trouble. It is not only about being stuck with lengthy and expensive court proceedings but other factors too that cause emotional turmoil. The defendant suffers a loss of reputation in addition to a loss in confidence of conducting medical practice. Also, on many occasions, the doctors have tried their best to give appropriate medical care to patients. But patients are not ready to accept this fact and hence issue malpractice claims. It is important to deal with such negative circumstances strongly to restore pride and confidence. Hence, defending a malpractice claim is important for one’s career.
Medical Malpractice defense must be strategized carefully to ensure that lawyer is able to make counter allegations and falsify the charges levied on his client. A strong medical malpractice defense system is important to reduce the instances of fraudulent malpractice cases and highlight the genuine ones.