In our last post, we mentioned that a jury’s perception of a physician’s attitude toward an injured patient and litigation, and the physician’s character in general, can significantly affect the outcome of medical malpractice litigation. This is an important issue, since juries are responsible for making findings that directly impact liability and damages awards.
The jury, of course, has to take into account all the circumstances of the case, but the way a physician presents in court can potentially be used to an injured patient’s benefit. One example of this is the physician’s handling of medical records. Medical records, of course, are an important resource in building a strong medical malpractice case since they typically contain information a patient needs to establish liability. Medical records show the reasoning behind a physician’s decision-making, including the options and risks that were considered and how unexpected outcomes were handled.
Medical malpractice cases, it is important to note, do not result so much from poor treatment results as much as lack of communication and empathy with patient and the patient’s family. Usually, medical malpractice litigation results from failure to provide a reasonable explanation for a poor treatment outcome. This failure is usually reflected in poor medical records, and this is why it is so important for medical malpractice plaintiffs to obtain these records when building a case.
Physicians can fail in a variety of ways with respect to medical records, including: failure to keep records in the first place; falsifying records; altering or adding to records; poor documentation practices; losing track of tests; and overreliance on electronic medical records. A physician’s habits surrounding medical record-keeping can reveal a lot about his or her character and this can be used to an injured patient’s benefit in litigation.
We’ll continue this discussion in our next post.