Dec 18, 2015
Receiving a subpoena for a lawsuit is anxiety provoking and can lead to depression for healthcare workers. Becoming a witness in a deposition and in front of a jury may be the most stressful experience of a lifetime for a caregiver. Effective witness preparation can ameliorate many of the extremely negative psychological impacts and help health care professionals not only tolerate the experience better but also be more effective in the defense of the claim.
One of the challenges in defending a medical malpractice claim can be a defendant who for a variety of reasons is unlikely to make a strong appearance at a deposition or in front of a jury. Even when the experts uniformly agree that the the standard of care was maintained and the care was excellent, an anxious, nervous or otherwise compromised defendant can make defending a malpractice claim a serious challenge. The best strategy is to prepare the witness by using proven techniques that can enhance the skills and appearance of the witness. By educating the defendant about what to expect, how to appear and how to communicate with the lay public, claims managers, defendant attorneys and consultants can significantly increase the likelihood of a favorable outcome.
Defendants can fall into many categories which compromise their ability to communicate effectively. They maybe terrified, anxious, arrogant, have poor communication skills or make a generally unfavorable appearance overall. The time spent educating and counseling the defendant not only on the general issues they will face in a legal proceeding but reviewing the salient strengths and weaknesses of the medical facts that their specific case presents is critical. It is crucial that the preparation occur well before the witnesses deposition since the results of a poor deposition can be very difficult to overcome. Bringing to bear all the resources available, especially when there are unexpected catastrophic damages or a tragic outcome is highly effective. The thank you letters that defense attorneys, claims representatives and expert witness consultants receive after a successful defense of a case are strong evidence the time and energy spent counseling and educating them are worthwhile. The calculated return on investment for the time and effort used to prepare the defendant are prodigious.
Helping caregivers to prepare for and survive the experience of a lawsuit ultimately will help them be more content and fulfilled in their profession. Nicolas Argy, M.D., J.D.
Health/Business Consultant/Educator, Patient Safety, Quality, Risk Management, Public Health Advocate, Witness Prep