Common Mistakes of Handling a Litigation Notice

October 27, 2016
VMD Staff

Debra Hamilton, JD, principal attorney at Hamilton Law and Mediation, discusses importance of confronting a client rather than waiting to go to court.

Debra Hamilton, JD, principal attorney at Hamilton Law and Mediation, discusses importance of confronting a client rather than waiting to go to court.

Interview Transcript (slightly modified for readability)

“What I see veterinarians do that is the biggest mistake they make when they are given notice of litigation is either ignore it, or immediately call their insurance company that might advise them not to talk to their client. Not talking to their client can sometimes escalate the issue greater than it would have been had they talked to their client.

"However, talking to them with a caveat: you should always talk to them in a mediation setting. You should always ask your client, ‘Listen, we’re having a disagreement. I would really like to talk to you more about this. Can we talk about it in a confidentially?’ Because you don’t want to say something that’s going to be used against you if in fact they sue later.

"If you ask to do it in mediation, it’s going to give you the opportunity to hear what the client is upset about, what the staff member is upset about, and give you the opportunity to have that discussion and save that relationship. If in fact you ignore it, or you call your insurance company and they say, ‘You don’t have to worry about it until they sue you,’ you often then go down the path—the rabbit hole, I call it–of litigation. Because you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop. This way, you’re proactive, you’re not reactive. You’re really getting in there and helping your client understand why you acted the way you did and understanding better why they acted the way they did.

"So if in fact you feel like you’re going to be sued, don’t wait until you’re sued. Ask your insurance company to mediate early before you’re sued so that you can actually possibly save the relationship with your client. And if you can’t save the relationship with your client, don’t send them away mad. Send them away with the feeling that, ‘Well, I don’t want to ever use Dr. Smith again, but at least he listened to me,’ or she listened to me.”