Even the most experienced DCs can find themselves facing an allegation of medical negligence. What does that entail?
Posted in Risk Management on Tuesday, December 7, 2021
As a Doctor of Chiropractic, you strive to provide your patients with the best care possible. You do what you can to help relieve their pain or keep them healthy and active, whichever the case may be.
Unfortunately, things happen. Even a doctor with several decades of experience can face a malpractice allegation citing medical negligence. But, what exactly does negligence mean? Let’s take a look.
4 Elements of a Malpractice Claim
From a legal standpoint, there are four elements to a malpractice claim. The patient and their legal team have the burden of proving each of these elements in court:
- A doctor/patient relationship – If such a relationship exists, it necessitates a duty of care by the doctor to the patient.
- Breach in the standard of care – The chiropractic standard of care may vary from state to state, but the essential concept is what a licensed, prudent, competent DC in the same region would do in the same or similar circumstances.
- Proximate cause – The breach in the standard of care must set off a chain of events that led to the alleged injury or damages.
- Damages – Damages could include pain and suffering, loss of wages, medical bills and more.
Breaches in the standard of care can happen when performing an adjustment or manipulation. Adjusting the wrong or unintended level of the spine would be an example.
It’s important to understand that other components may come into play. There may or may not be a clinical allegation involved, depending on the situation. Here are some examples:
- Failure to diagnose – Perhaps a DC takes an X-ray that shows a suspicious growth, but doesn’t share the findings.
- Failure to refer – A referral may be necessary if a DC discovers a problem unrelated to chiropractic during an exam.
- Failure to obtain informed consent – Informed consent is a process and an important step. The necessary elements to establish informed consent could vary, depending on state rules and regulations.
- Failure to obtain patient history – A DC may not have asked for updated health information, resulting in a bad outcome.
The Importance of Malpractice Insurance
If you face an allegation of medical negligence, having the right malpractice insurance will be paramount. Under your policy, your malpractice insurance company is responsible for providing you with a defense and paying for that defense. (Subject to the terms and provisions of your policy.)
The defense is an important part of your coverage because defending a chiropractic malpractice claim can easily cost tens, even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Even if you’ve done nothing wrong, the cost to defend a claim can be significant. Look for a policy that pays defense costs in addition to jury awards or settlements. It can make all the difference.
NCMIC Can Help
If you have questions about medical negligence or how a malpractice insurance policy can help protect your reputation, remember that NCMIC is always here. Give us a call at 800-247-8043.