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Virginia Medical Malpractice Suit: When Can a Client Sue Your Orthopedic Practice?

30. October 2013 11:02

Lady doctor shows x-rays to patient

With a jury in Virginia unable to reach a verdict over a $1 million civil lawsuit alleged against orthopedic surgeon Dr. Robert Rutkowski, orthopedic surgeons and

other small-business owners are left wondering: when can a lawsuit be filed against me? The civil lawsuit against Dr. Rutkowski claims he caused permanent injury to a patient’s collarbone and left shoulder during clavicle surgery, but after two days of deliberation the jury was unable to reach a verdict.

The jury had a number of questions for Dr. Rutkowski after deliberation – questions that orthopedic surgeons can look at as areas to address in order to avoid malpractice lawsuits. They involve the following:

  1. The jury was curious as to why Dr. Rutkowski failed to note that he had attempted to use screws in the procedure without success. They also wondered why the patient wasn’t notified of the hazards involved in using sutures in place of screws, and why these hazards weren’t outlined in a consent form given to the patient to sign.
  2. The jury was struck by the fact that Dr. Rutkowski failed to mention to the patient the possibility of using sutures in place of screws before the procedure, as well as the fact that he failed to mention that this had been the case after he had completed the surgery.

Ultimately, the jury was unable to make a decision in Dr. Rutkowski’s case because the court couldn’t admit additional evidence to answer these questions, which is why the case ended in a mistrial. Though Dr. Rutkowski was not found liable for any judgment, he was responsible for all the lawyer and witness fees required to try the case – and he may have to pay additional funds if the case is retried.

This case illustrates how proper documentation and communication with patients can go a long way in preventing malpractice lawsuits. But it may leave orthopedic surgeons and other owners of medical practices wondering: which insurance policies do I need to carry to avoid paying for malpractice litigation with my personal funds?

While the chances of facing a malpractice lawsuit from a patient are low, these suits are still a very real part of practicing medicine, which is why it’s essential to be prepared. Read on to find out which insurance policies can best protect you from litigious patients or clients.

The Benefits of Carrying Medical Malpractice Insurance for Orthopedic Surgeons

Last month, we discussed Malpractice Insurance for acupuncturists, outlining some situations some situations it commonly covers. Now, in light of news regarding the suit filed in Virginia, it’s worthwhile to highlight the benefits of carrying this policy for orthopedic surgeons.

In the case in Virginia against Dr. Robert Rutkowski, over $500,000 of potential damages were alleged. And this doesn’t take into consideration other expenses associated with defending a case in court, including witness fees and attorney’s fees. That amount is difficult for any independent practitioner to take on, and without proper Malpractice Insurance in place, those costs could spell disaster for your practice.

Malpractice Insurance funds cases that end up being dismissed by the court, too. So even if your case results in a hung jury, you won’t be hung out to dry paying for legal fees associated with the court battle.

Because let’s face it: even if you feel you’re in the right and that your orthopedic practice ultimately won’t be hit with a half-million dollar settlement, it’s still no fun being scrutinized by a jury and judge. So to curb these types of lawsuits, it’s best to…

When in doubt, cover your bases. You’re always better off assuming and preparing for the worst than going into damage control later.

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Tags:

Allied Health Insurance | Malpractice Insurance | Risk Management

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