Patient – Doctor Privilege Is Broader Than Many Think
Nashua, NH (Law Firm Newswire) February 12, 2013 – Insurance companies need to watch their step if attempting to speak to a plaintiff’s doctor.
“This should make logical common sense, but unfortunately, most insurance companies are neither logical or use common sense. Their main reason for existing is to make money. If someone has a personal injury lawsuit about to go to court, the insurance people are out to get the settlement amount diminished or denied, as fast as they can. That means cutting some corners. One insurance company in Florida got their wrists slapped for just that,” explained Charlie Donahue, a Nashua medical malpractice lawyer with offices in Keene, New Hampshire.
One rather overzealous attorney in Florida decided he wanted to have a word in private with a physician who treated a plaintiff in a medical malpractice case. The Florida Supreme Court took exception to that and handed down a ruling that state law creates an expansive doctor-patient privilege of confidentiality. “The issue involved here deals with ‘ex parte communications’ in medical malpractice lawsuits,” said Donahue.
There has been a fair amount of controversy over whether defense lawyers should be permitted to talk in private with physicians who are not named parties to a lawsuit, but have treated the plaintiff in a suit, thus making them potential witnesses.
“The case that resulted in this particular ruling involved a plaintiff suing his dentist for inadequate care that triggered a bone infection. The plaintiff had to seek remedial dental care from another oral surgeon. The first dentist’s insurer hired a lawyer, who wanted a private talk with the second oral surgeon, before she was deposed. The insurance company also provided dental malpractice coverage for the second dentist. You might think that would amount to conflict of interest,” Donahue added.
It appears that even though the contentious meeting was to be between the second dentist and her lawyer, and not the lawyer for the dentist being sued, that the court indicated the law broadly protects the confidentiality of information between doctors and patients. Case precedent also existed with the same ratio decidendi; that such meetings are prohibited.
“While this is a touchy issue, the long and short of it is allowing ex parte communications means defense attorneys being able to interview doctors without the patient’s legal counsel being included. That does not serve the plaintiff well,” remarked Donahue.
Individuals that feel they have been a victim of medical malpractice, and that includes dental malpractice, need to discuss their concerns with a skilled medical malpractice lawyer. “It costs absolutely nothing to talk to me and get my opinion on your situation. You would then have the peace of mind of knowing how to proceed,” he stated.
Donahue Law Firm
143 West St.
Keene, NH 03431
Call: (603) 357-2363
Toll Free: (800) 498-4554
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