I am a Florida medical malpractice lawyer and yes, I sue doctors for a living. Like the saying goes “some of my best friends are….doctors.” Two of my friends have actually continued on from medical school to become incredible lawyers. For the most part, when I meet doctors, be it in line at the movies, next to me on a plane or in the court room, their skin crawls when they learn that I am a lawyer.
So after twenty years of suing doctors and hospitals for making a wrong diagnosis, or botching a surgery, what can I tell them about how best to keep me or other medical malpractice lawyers from knocking on their doors?
1. Slow down and listen. It might be easier said than done, but most doctors see an inordinate number of patients, rushing from room to room, crisscrossing cities and hospitals. Not being in such a hurry could and should assist them in avoiding a lot of needless mistakes.
2. Admit you do not know something. I do not know if it’s ego, but more good doctors make bad mistakes when a problem spirals out of their areas of expertise or comfort. I see this mistake particularly in post-op infection and wound-care cases. Someone may be a great surgeon, but maylack the skills to treat a complex infection. Call in a consult.
3. Get Technical. Utilize the latest technology in scheduling, scanning and follow ups. I am amazed how many doctors I sue who have no records of how many patients they see on a given day, how many surgeries they performed or how a patient’s medications are charted.
4. Spend the Money on Your Patients. I have sued hospitals that claim to not have resources to properly staff floors or emergency rooms, but spend millions on sponsoring tennis tournaments and black-tie balls.
5. Get Malpractice Insurance. More and more Florida doctors are “going bare” with the hope that it will discourage patients from filing and collecting claims. Moreover, Florida Statute §458.320 allows doctors to practice without medical malpractice insurance provided that they have a letter of credit in the amount of $250,000 per claim.
Sadly, I acknowledge that it has had a chilling affect on the ability to represent injured patients when lawyers are concerned that they will ever be able to collect. I fear that the lack of medical malpractice insurance has actually given doctors a false sense of security that lackadaisical and negligent care will go on checked because no “lawyer will take it on” I urge all medical doctors to be insured for malpractice not to encourage claims but to satisfy an injury that can happen due to the fact that doctors are, after all, human beings like anybody else.
Specifically Florida Statute §458 states a doctor can practice medicine in Florida without insurance provided that:
“Obtaining and maintaining an unexpired irrevocable letter of credit, established pursuant to chapter 675, in an amount not less than $250,000 per claim, with a minimum aggregate availability of credit of not less than $750,000. The letter of credit must be payable to the physician as beneficiary upon presentment of a final judgment indicating liability and awarding damages to be paid by the physician or upon presentment of a settlement agreement signed by all parties to such agreement when such final judgment or settlement is a result of a claim arising out of the rendering of, or the failure to render, medical care and services. The letter of credit may not be used for litigation costs or attorney’s fees for the defense of any medical malpractice claim. The letter of credit must be nonassignable and nontransferable. The letter of credit must be issued by any bank or savings association organized and existing under the laws of this state or any bank or savings association organized under the laws of the United States which has its principal place of business in this state or has a branch office that is authorized under the laws of this state or of the United States to receive deposits in this state.”