How to Protect Your Dental Office from Lawsuits

Thanks to Evan Fischer for this guest post:

In any profession, there are going to risks that could leadto lawsuits.  Restaurant patrons couldburn themselves while sipping hot coffee. Grocery shoppers could slip on a recently washed floor.  Gym members could injure themselves throughimproper use of equipment.  And when itcomes to health care professions, the stakes are even higher.  So if you run a dental office and you’reconcerned about the possibility of lawsuits, you may be looking for ways to avoidany situations that could get you into hot water (or end in a courtroom).  So here are a few tips that will help you tosteer clear of lawsuits and run a practice that you can be proud of.

1.       Offermultiple options.  While many patientssuffer from similar dental issues, that doesn’t mean that it is necessary touse the same treatment on all of them. Of course there are instances where you simply won’t have multipleoptions for treatment.  But if you canoffer alternatives that make your customers feel like they’re in control of thedecision-making process, it could help to stave off problems down the road.
2.       Providewaivers (include disclaimers).  One ofthe easiest ways to protect your practice from lawsuits is to get consent inwriting.  Creating legal waivers thatwarn patients of potential pitfalls of certain procedures is an excellent waynot only to protect yourself from prosecution, but to ensure that customers arewell aware of what they are agreeing to.

3.Times New Roman';">       Setstrict office policies.  You need to makesure that you and your staff are on the same page when it comes to dealing withpatients, so consider implementing a series of office policies to deal with howinformation is given and procedures are handled, especially where patients areconcerned.  This way, if allegationsarise about mistreatment, you can dispel them with authority, knowing that yourstaff follows the rules to the letter.

4.       Makereparations.  If you’ve made a mistake,do everything you can to repair it before it comes to the point of legalproceedings.  While there are certainlysome unsavory characters out there that may be looking to con you, most peoplesimply want to be treated fairly.  Sorather than denying wrongdoing on your part, simply try to address customercomplaints to the best of your ability whether you are at fault or not.  Keeping your patients happy and healthy justcomes with the territory, so be prepared to work with even those that areproblematic.  This attitude could justhelp you to avoid costly lawsuits.

5.       Speakwith a qualified lawyer.  Not all lawyersspecialize in the same type of cases. For example, you probably won’t want to waste your time with a criminal,bankruptcy, or Jones Act Lawyer(unless you happen to be facing jail time, you’re weighed down by unmanageabledebt, or you served time on a sea vessel). The point is, you need an attorney that is familiar with the legalaspects of the dental profession so that you can get appropriate advice on howto deal with lawsuits or avoid them in the first place.  Ask colleagues for recommendations or checkwith your local law library to find a suitable match for your business.

Evan Fischer is acontributing writer for Doyle Raizner,the premier law firm specializing in Maritime law and personal injury cases.

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