Should I Pay for a Patient's Emergency Care?

Should I pay for the cost of a patient's emergency room care if I may have caused the problem?

Risk Management

Should I Pay for a Patient's Emergency Care?

Question: A patient of mine went to the emergency room over the weekend with back spasms and has now requested that I pay for the charges. He contends my treatment made his condition worse. Should I pay for the cost of the emergency room care?


Answer: It is normally not wise to pay for these types of charges unless the patient agrees to execute a release, which agrees not to pursue a claim against you.

Making a payment without a release could be construed as an admission of guilt should the patient pursue a malpractice claim in the future, and the payment may also violate the conditions section of your professional liability policy.

If you would like guidance about the situation or the risks involved, contact us at 1-800-242-4052. It’s possible that you did not violate the standard of care or cause the alleged injury. Many times, after talking with us, doctors have concluded their treatment was reasonable, and they felt confident about standing firm on fees.

If you decide you’d still like to respond to the patient’s request, consider drafting a letter expressing that you’re sorry that the patient was not happy with the results of his treatment, but do not admit or accept responsibility for the injury.

Finally, it’s important to remember that agreeing to pay for a patient’s tests or treatments “just once” could set a precedent that could spiral on indefinitely. For example, if the patient needs further testing, treatment or surgery, then the patient will likely expect you to pay for it.


The information in the NCMIC Learning Center is offered solely for general information and educational purposes. It is not offered as, nor does it represent, legal or professional advice. Neither does this information constitute a guideline, practice parameter or standard of care. You should not act or rely upon this information without seeking the advice of an attorney familiar with the specific legal requirements of the state(s) in which you practice. If there is a discrepancy between the site and an insurance policy you have with NCMIC, the policy will prevail.