Can Some Physicians Spot a Patient that is Going to Sue?

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By, Katie Leander

Statistics show that the average physician will be sued at least once or twice during his or her medical career. And, many physicians are blind-sided when they are served with papers and never saw the lawsuit coming. But some physicians say that they saw it a mile away – and that they knew it was only a matter of time – and not necessarily because something obvious, like an error, occurred. How is this? Do some patients give off “warning signs” that they might be likely to sue for medical malpractice? “Yes” is the answer according to a recent AMedNews article.

While not every patient will display warning signs of being likely to sue, many do. Here is what to look for:
A patient who demands or begs for a treatment
Needless to say, a patient who demonstrates an unwillingness to engage in shared decision-making from the get-go of the doctor-patient relationship does not bode well for the relationship.

A patient who requests a diagnosis outside of a physician’s specialty
Again, it may seem that the patient is not interested in establishing an appropriate, working relationship. And, the physician should ask him or herself, “Why is this patient asking me to do something that I professionally shouldn’t do or don’t feel comfortable doing? Could this be a problem?”

A patient who complains that other physician(s) have mistreated him or her
While it may be tempting for a physician to engage is some “arm chair” analysis of a patient’s previous physician, the article warns against it. First, and most obviously, the facts of the situation may not be entirely or accurately presented. And, second, the physician should be careful not to entangle him or herself in the web of the previous doctor-patient relationship.
A patient who specifically says that he or she has sued another physician
While it should not be assumed that because a patient sued another physician that they would be likely to sue the current physician, it should be noted.
Finally, while any or all of these warning signs should not be considered as proof that a patient is likely to sue, they are simply red-flags worth noting and should cause any physician to take note. In such cases, the physician should act thoughtfully and prudently, and document the record accordingly –what any physician should do in any doctor-patient relationship.

Katie Leander is a Writer & Content Strategist with, the leading provider of physician malpractice insurance in the country. You can find her on Google+.