Ten Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Sue Your Doctor – NOT!
1. You aren’t the type of person to sue.
This is the most common thing that I hear from clients. The fact is that very few people are the “type of person who sues,” and the persons who want to litigate over minor injuries and disputes are not the clients that we want to represent.
98% of the population are not the “type of people to sue”. However, when you or your loved one has been injured through the negligence of another person, you have basic responsibilities to ensure that medical bills are paid, lost wages are recovered, future medical expenses are paid – and if there is a physical disability, you must ensure that you or your loved one is compensated for the dramatic change in your life.
2. You really like your doctor.
It isn’t surprising that you like your doctor. Otherwise, why else would you keep going back to him year after year? But so what? Liking your doctor shouldn’t keep you from suing him if he has caused you emotional and/or physical harm. Think about it – the legal system is around for a reason. It’s there to provide people with a way to receive compensation from someone who has harmed.
In addition, the fact that you like your doctor doesn’t actually mean that he’s any good at what he does. It would be a mistake to let your doctor get away with malpractice if he is exercising a poor quality of care. Remember: the fact that he’s a nice guy doesn’t mean he’s a competent physician. Don’t you want to receive compensation for your injury or the injury of a loved one and possibly keep him from injuring someone else?
3. You don’t want to spend the time and money
This is probably the number one reason why you don’t want to sue your doctor. While it is true that most lawsuits can take some time to become resolved, it is well worth the wait. However, there are ways to speed up the process: file your lawsuit as soon as it is determined that the case has merit and make sure that the court imposes deadlines for every step of the lawsuit, such as specific dates for depositions, defense medical examinations, and the exchange of discovery responses. This will prevent the lawsuit from the inevitable delays presented by defense attorneys and their insurers and keep the case on the proverbial “fast track” to trial.
Second, you should never be paying money to any lawyer upfront to bring your malpractice suit. A lawyer should never ask you for money to pay for the costs of your case. If he does, find a new lawyer pronto! Law firms experienced in malpractice litigation will never ask their clients to pay for the expenses of their case. It is a cost of doing business for malpractice law firms to pay for the costs of hiring medical experts, obtaining medical records, paying for depositions, and the like. Lawyers who ask you to pay for the costs of your case before the case is resolved have no business in malpractice litigation and you should take such a request as an urgent warning to find a new lawyer.
4. You don’t want to “look bad” to family and friends.
Many people don’t bring a meritorious lawsuit against their doctor because of fear concerning family and friends. Only you can decide for yourself whether bringing a lawsuit against your physician is the right thing for you to do. Only you know the pain and suffering that you have endured – nobody else. Only you know the extent of your lost wages, medical bills, and injury.
However, bringing a lawsuit is not for everyone. Weigh your options. If your fear of “looking bad” to family or friends outweighs your desire to bring a malpractice suit against your doctor for an injury he caused you or a loved one, bringing a suit may not be the best option for you. On the other hand, if your need or want to bring suit against your doctor outweighs your fear, taking action against your physician may be the right choice for you.
Although this may sound like “tough love”, if you feel that you need or want to bring suit against your doctor because he or she injured you or a loved one, and your family or friends are giving your grief about it, maybe it’s time to think about whether they really have your best interests at heart. If bringing suit is something you feel that you need to do to pay for lost wages, medical bills, pain and suffering, or just to regain some sense of control over the situation, your good friends and family will eventually come to understand and stick by your side.
5. You don’t need or want the money.
No one is saying that money will fix everything, will turn back the clock and bring a loved one back, or completely compensate you for the pain that you have endured.
However, our legal system is set up in such a way where monetary damages is not only a way to compensate persons for lost wages, medical bills, and pain and suffering; it is also there as a way to hold doctors accountable for their actions. Without the threat of monetary sanctions and lawsuits, doctors would lose some motivation for conducting their professional lives in a careful and cautious manner. Furthermore, if you doctor did negligently injure you or a loved one, bringing suit against him may serve as a wakeup call and could possibly prevent him from injuring someone else in the future.
6. You’ll have to find a new doctor
Again - so what? Do you really want to be going to a doctor that injured you and caused you pain and suffering? There are much better options out there. You found this doctor. You’ll find another one. There are numerous resources available to help you find a new, more competent physician. A simple Google search of “find doctor New York” will yield a multitude of websites designed to do just that. If you have health insurance, contact your insurance company. They can usually provide you with a list of doctors in your area that are covered by your plan. Also, don’t under-estimate the value of your friends and family as a helpful resource regardless of whether or not you have insurance. Talk to them to find out what doctors with whom they entrust their health. In no time at all, you will be sure to find the right doctor for you.
7. Your doctor will lose his license and/or his practice
Not true! There are thousands of physicians sued successfully every year without ending in the loss of their licenses or practices. Although your doctor will have to spend some time defending the suit, throughout the process he will most likely still be able to see his patients and conduct his life as normal. Furthermore, after the conclusion of the suit, he will most likely go back to treating his patients – albeit, hopefully, more carefully this time.
In fact, filing a civil suit against your doctor does not even guarantee that he will be investigated. In order for your doctor to be investigated, a complaint would have to be filed against him with the New York State Department of Health. The Office of Professional Medical Conduct (“OPMC”) is responsible for investigating complaints about physicians, physician’s assistants, and specialist assistants. An investigation may lead to a formal hearing before a committee of the Board for Professional Medical Conduct.
While an investigation against your doctor could lead to the revocation of his license, such action is rare. Only in the most extreme cases, where the Board feels that your doctor is a threat to the well-being of his patients, will his or her license be revoked. The Board could decide to take lesser action such as limiting his license, issuing a censure and reprimand, or require him or her to attend training.
8. Your doctor will use your medical information against you
Under NO circumstances is your doctor allowed to leak, alter, or otherwise use your medical information against you in retaliation for filing a malpractice lawsuit. There are severe criminal, civil, and judicial penalties for taking such illegal actions. For engaging in an act such as altering your medical records, your doctor could face anywhere from criminal fraud charges to the loss of his medical license.
Although it is not unheard of for a doctor to alter medical records, it is extremely rare. If your doctor does alter your medical records, this fact alone will not irreparably harm your case. There have been major advances in forensic technology over the past years. It is now possible to detect changes in ink, spacing, and handwriting that may have been made by your doctor when he tried to alter your records.
If it can be proven in court that your doctor altered your records, his credibility with the judge or jury will be irreparably damaged and chances are, you will win your suit, and a large judgment will be issued against your doctor.
9. Your injuries aren’t that bad.
People have a tendency to downplay their injuries because they do not want to be seen by others as complaining or needy. In fact, those that are more severely injured tend to downplay their injuries the most. Before you are convinced that your injuries don’t warrant some type of compensation, it is best to be examined by an independent medical expert. You may be entitled to lost wages, medical expenses, or compensation for pain and suffering.
10. Your doctor just made a mistake.
That is one of the main reasons the legal system exists! To compensate people who been injured by their doctors’ mistakes! If your doctor has made a medical mistake, he may well have committed what is known in the legal community as negligence. In order to prove negligence, your attorney will have to show that (a) your doctor owed you a duty of care, (b) your doctor breached that duty of care, (c) your doctor’s breach caused you injury, and (d) you did in fact suffer an injury.
And don’t kid yourself. If you think that your doctor just made a mistake and that it won’t happen again – think again. Chances are, if he made a mistake with you, he very well could have done it before and will do it again. Don’t be dissuaded by your doctor’s apologies or his downplaying of your injuries. An apology won’t pay for your medical expenses, and it certainly doesn’t ensure that he realizes the full consequences of his negligible actions.