Q. I've been sued. How do I report this claim to my medical liability insurer, Texas Medical Liability Trust (TMLT)?
A. Time is critical when you are involved in a lawsuit. TMLT offers these guidelines to the physicians it insures.
What to Report
Contact the TMLT claims department immediately if you receive any of the following:
- A "notice of claim" letter. This letter refers to Chapter 74 of the Civil Practice and Remedy Code or indicates the intention to serve as a notice of claim. Upon receipt of a notice of claim, you and TMLT have 60 days to investigate and evaluate the claim before the plaintiff may file. Not all plaintiffs' attorneys follow this law.
- A lawsuit . This document will contain a citation, which informs you that you have been sued, and a petition, which lists the plaintiff(s) vs. the defendant(s) and describes the allegations in the case. Once you are served with a citation and petition, you have a limited time to respond to the suit by retaining a defense attorney to file an answer on your behalf.
Even if you already have reported a notice of claim, TMLT will have no way of knowing that suit has been filed until you report it. Your TMLT policy contains very specific reporting requirements. You must immediately report the lawsuit by telephone, delivering the suit papers to TMLT within 10 days (the sooner the better), and obtaining written receipt of this delivery. If you fail to report a lawsuit to TMLT in a timely manner, you could lose the case through a default judgment against you. (A default judgment is a ruling entered against a defendant who fails to answer a summons in a lawsuit.) This would jeopardize the medical liability coverage for your case.
- A records request . This may come from the patient, the patient's spouse, an attorney, or a record retrieval service and may be a subpoena or simply a letter requesting medical records. Either way, the request for records should include a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)-compliant medical authorization signed by the patient or by the patient's legal representative. It is best to respond to a records request as soon as possible. If you have questions, call your TMLT claims supervisor or defense attorney.
- A request for deposition. A deposition is testimony given under oath before a court reporter. You may be served with a subpoena for oral deposition, or you may be contacted by an attorney directly. You may be asked to give testimony regarding a patient who is suing another physician, or who you suspect plans to do so. Because what you say in the deposition can prompt a plaintiff's attorney to name you as a defendant in the suit, you may need legal representation before and/or during your deposition.
How to Report
- Report any of the above matters to the TMLT claims department by calling (800) 580-8658. Have whatever notice you have received and the pertinent medical records available for reference during you phone conversation, which will take about 20 minutes.
- Fax and send via certified mail to TMLT, return receipt requested, a copy of the notice of claim letter, lawsuit, subpoena, or other documents. Do not fax your medical records.
- Gather a complete and unaltered copy of all pertinent medical records, including hospital and prior or subsequent treatment records, if available. Forward a copy of these records to TMLT as soon as possible.
Remember, any delay in reporting could compromise your defense.
What to Do After Reporting to TMLT
- Do not discuss the case with anyone except a TMLT claims representative or the attorney assigned to defend you.
- Maintain your original medical records in a secure place for future reference. Do not make any additions, deletions, or other alterations to the medical records. Secure any other pertinent information or items in your possession, such as billing records, x-rays, or hospital charts.
- Keep all correspondence to and from TMLT and your assigned attorney in a separate and secure file. Do not commingle these items with the original medical chart on the patient. Do not release these materials to anyone unless cleared through your assigned attorney or the TMLT claims department.
The TMLT claims representative assigned to your case will keep you informed as the case proceeds, both directly and through your assigned attorney.
Content Reviewed: 3/13/2007
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