This executive message from MLMIC Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lombardo was originally printed in our First Quarter 2023 issue of The Scope: Dental Edition. Read more articles from the publication here.
There are few events that strike more terror in the heart of the modern dentist than being in a malpractice suit and learning that one’s personal assets might be at risk. The idea that, as a result of a jury verdict in a suit, one might lose one’s financial security is terrifying indeed and should be taken very seriously.
First, a word of reassurance. Malpractice suits where a dentist’s personal assets have been attached are extremely uncommon. The large jury verdicts that one sees touted in subway ads are often reduced by the trial judge or by appeal. Still, the risk remains, and one needs to be prepared.
Most commonly, plaintiffs’ attorneys threatening to pursue a dentist’s personal assets in the event of a large plaintiff’s verdict is often used as a ploy to get dentists to settle what is otherwise a defensible case. In this situation, I strongly recommend that one be guided by the assessment of one’s attorney, who usually has a better, more objective view of the case and can better evaluate the true risk of such an occurrence.
When I was on trial, I was struck by how my “calm” assessment of the proceedings went completely out the window. At times, I felt like I was the worst doctor in the world. A verdict in my favor came almost as a shock. Fortunately, my MLMIC-appointed attorney kept things in perspective. He felt the voiced threat to my personal assets was little more than an attempt to intimidate and that the case was “going well.” He had a much better perspective than I could ever have. MLMIC uses only the best defense attorneys, and I am grateful to mine to this day.
As the cases presented in this issue demonstrate, the best way to avoid being in this situation is to follow long-established guidelines. Keep good records. Document as much as possible. Treat friends and loved ones in the same way you would other patients, including proper documentation of the treatment. Encourage, and arrange, second opinions when you might need one. Don’t consciously or unconsciously push less than optimal results away. If sued, participate in your defense, and take the advice of your seasoned MLMIC attorney seriously.
We have enough pressures and demands on our professional lives already. Hopefully, the contents of the Q1 2023 issue of The Scope: Dental Edition will help with some of those sleepless nights.
Sincerely, your colleague,
John W. Lombardo, MD, FACS
Chief Medical Officer, MLMIC Insurance Company
MLMIC policyholders can contact a team of risk management professionals 24/7 at no additional cost by calling (844) MMS-LAW1 or emailing email@example.com. For more resources for dentists, visit the MLMIC Dental blog, The Scope: Dental Edition, Dental Impressions and our Twitter and LinkedIn pages.