© Gary Inglese
Dental Defense - Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulations Defense - Dental-Legal Issues - Dental Risk Management - Dental Contracts and Business Issues - Dental Office Transitions
Locate the patient’s record. This includes written and computer records, all notes, radiographs, appointment books, office telephone logs, photos, lab prescriptions, models and anything else you can think of that pertains to the patient. You will be required to present these materials to the patient’s attorney prior to the deposition they take of you. Your attorney will want copies of these materials ASAP.
Contact your professional liability carrier. The company will assign an attorney to represent you. Generally these individuals have experience in representing healthcare professionals. Ask if they have had experience in dental cases. You will probably have to do an amount of paperwork to preserve your coverage for the lawsuit.
Write a narrative of the treatment in question and your defenses to these allegations. You will want to include your recollection of discussions you had with the patient and treatments above and beyond what your office records may reflect. You want to compose this summary of what you remember because the lawsuit may drag on for years and time will not improve your memory. You want to record any relevant information that you think will aid you and your attorney in defense of the claims. This includes potential witnesses, such as other professionals that consulted, treated this patient. Include the names of staff. If this document is titled “For my attorney,” is privileged and is not discoverable by the patient’s attorney.
Do not alter you records in any way. Resist the urge to add information to the progress notes. An altered record will guarantee you a bad outcome and make your defense almost impossible.
Do not contact the patient (plaintiff) or their attorney. Any admissions or comments can be later used against you. You are wasting your breath. This includes emails and letters. Do not discuss the lawsuit with staff or third parties, as they may be later called as witnesses. It is however appropriate to call the staff together and inform them that you have been sued by the patient and that you have been instructed by your attorney not to discuss the matter as they may become potential witnesses.
Do not call dental colleagues. This includes professionals that the patient may have been referred to. Any conversation with the specialist would be discoverable.
Keep in mind that your profession in not your life. A professional lawsuit is a “speed bump” in your practice. While it will take a long time to resolve and expect it will, you will eventually have it finished. Discuss your feelings with your attorney, who has experience in defending these matters. They will give you the proper perspective. The suit will eventually settle and life goes on.
What to do if you are sued?