By: Julia Kleinschmidt, Bose McKinney & Evans LLP
The Paralegal Committee organized a successful seminar dealing with the subject of communication with your physician client within the area of medical malpractice defense on March 25, 2014. Attorneys Mary M. Ruth Feldhake of Bose McKinney & Evans LLP and Beth Knotts of Hill Fulwider were well-informed and dynamic speakers. Both have a breadth of experience in medical malpractice defense, and both possess a wry sense of humor making the session engaging and lively.
Although specific to the intricacies of the physician client-attorney relationship, the topic was relevant to communication with all professional clients who have a high degree of knowledge specific to their field and who are accustomed to being the "expert." Establishing confidence and trust is important at the start, and acknowledging the physician's medical expertise while communicating the need for attorney expertise in litigation matters is important. General advice to communicate clearly and often was given. Because medical complaints in Indiana are subject to the rules of the Medical Malpractice Act and follow a prescribed course as set out in the Act, it is important to outline the process so that your physician understands the path the case will take, first at the Medical Review Panel stage, and later, if the case should proceed to the courtroom. Additional advice was to directly address the client/attorney relationship should you feel it has gotten off track. The importance of acknowledging any conflict with the physician, and the reasons that might account for the conflict, sometimes resolves an escalating discord.
When the topic switched to physician deposition preparation, both Ms. Feldhake and Ms. Knotts stressed the importance of preparation and direction to the physician to try to speak in plain language, and to not become frustrated with the questioner. Unfortunately, the physician can appear impatient or arrogant if an attempt is not made at explaining the medicine in plain language. This translation of complex medical issues can be difficult for the physician, but the physician's attitude can be a critical component of defending a case.
Among the audience were several risk management attorneys, as well as independent practitioners.
Ms. Feldhake and Ms. Knotts invited questions and provided real life examples, which turned the seminar into a conversational tone. This provided an interesting twist on the traditional seminar and was a refreshing and informative approach. We look forward to having Ms. Feldhake and Ms. Knotts return for additional presentations. If they do, you will want to attend!