Lawsuit Stress: As an Overview
Stress and Medical Malpractice
The rising costs of medical malpractice lawsuits, combined with understaffed hospitals and failing infrastructure has led to a rise in lawsuit stress within the health care industry. Hospitals are forced to hire more physicians and other forms of healthcare workers, many of whom have never previously handled a lawsuit before. Many physicians are forced to accept higher rates for the hospital services they provide, as well as take on larger staffs to handle the increased caseload. As a result of these factors, lawsuit-related stress can often be high within the healthcare community. For these reasons, it is essential that health care workers remain aware of the legal risks involved in their job and how to minimize such risk in order to allow them to perform their duties without worry about facing lawsuit stress.
Some of the common issues doctors face when dealing with a lawsuit include billing errors, malpractice and wrongful death claims. In addition to errors and omissions, physicians may be sued for providing inadequate care for a patient, including ineffective medical treatment, misdiagnosis and other forms of negligence. The legal process can also result in a compensation claim being filed against a doctor for perceived failures in treating a patient suffering from a debilitating illness.
Lawsuit stress can also occur when a personal injury lawsuit arises from an automobile accident or a slip-and-fall.
There are several elements to consider when preparing for a lawsuit litigation. First, it is important to prepare any correspondence related to a personal injury lawsuit as quickly as possible. Second, it is important for doctors to maintain a clear and timely awareness of all litigation processes and the role each step of the process may play in order to limit the amount of stress caused to them.
The primary goal of the legal process is to determine whether a lawsuit should be filed and, if so, to what extent.
First steps in the discovery process include gathering medical records of potential plaintiffs in the case. Third, lawyers may work with discovery law firms in the area to obtain information relevant to the lawsuit. Fourth, discovery is not the only step in the lawsuit process. Doctors and other employees of health care providers may also be involved in the lawsuit under different circumstances. Personal injury litigation stress often results from a situation where a professional and/or non-medical staff member is responsible for providing medical care to a patient.
In one well-known case, a Pennsylvania physician was accused of negligent hiring practices, which resulted in significant injuries to one of his patients.
Dr. Hofeldt was found liable for the actions of his staff and other physicians who were working at the time. Dr. Hofeldt maintained that he had no prior knowledge that the patient had been subjected to substandard care. His attorney argued that, because of the significant risks inherent in treating a patient with a condition that often results in permanent injury, negligence on the part of the doctors constitutes personal injury litigation stress. The court ultimately sided with Dr. Hofeldt, determining that he in fact did have a duty to ensure that his patients received adequate care. This case, however, is an example of the complex nature of doctors and their relationships with patients.
In another case, a Maryland state supreme court found that a former state department of insurance administrator, Robert Lisko, owed personal injury lawsuit stress to a group of Maryland physicians when he declined to allow them to serve as interveners in a lawsuit against a health care provider. The court found that the physicians’ complaints regarding the defendant’s refusal to allow them to participate in the litigation were legitimate. One of the physicians later committed suicide. One of the Maryland state legislators, Representative George G. Smith (D Baltimore), expressed his belief that the ruling would have a chilling effect on physicians, but was the legislation intended to protect the interest of the public against greediness.
The Maryland court’s decision was sharply condemned by many other members of the medical community who felt that Dr. Lisko’s position placed him in a conflict of interest between the state and the physicians.
A group of Maryland physicians formed a citizens’ lawsuit fund to help those who might be adversely affected by Dr. Lisko’s decision not to allow the interviewers to act. The lawsuit fund has been instrumental in helping to settle several other personal injury lawsuit cases. Many of the cases have been resolved for amounts in the tens of thousands of dollars.
Dr. Kohatsu also serves as legal counsel to several individuals who have been similarly situated. He has helped to resolve cases brought against physicians for negligence, misdiagnosis, and similar issues. Many of these cases have been settled for substantial sums. Dr. Kohatsu’s role in the litigation process has been very beneficial to his clientele.