Wise Steps When A Cases Appears
You usually learn of a case when a summons is served. Most commonly this would be to your office, but it could be to your home. In addition, you may learn first when a plaintiff's attorney calls your carrier to discuss it in hopes of some settlement. He may also write a letter to you or the carrier with the same purpose. These latter two efforts usually fall on barren ground, but they do pre-warn of a filing weeks and more likely months in advance.
If a case comes to your attention, first notify your carrier and case manager, if you have one. Then, recheck your policy once more to be sure you understand the coverage and that it is in force. Furthermore, be certain your umbrella carrier is also notified if you have been served. They often have a narrow window for notification in order for the policy to be in force. It would be wise to check once they have been notified, that they have both received and registered the case. You should have documentation of the notification.
Service of a summons and other documents is complex matter with a number of details that can be critical to you. Of course, this varies from state to state, and possibly even within the state based on case law. Prior to service the case must be filed, and there is a statute of limitations, which is often 2 and a half years from the last date on which the patient was seen for treatment of the problem at issue. This date is not 100% absolute, and can be extended by a judge in some jurisdictions. In addition, it is required that a summons be delivered within a specified time after filing, often 120 days. This could also be extended under some circumstances by a judge. Finally, the service must be proper following certain rules, and could be invalid if the wrong person is served, for example. Always the details matter greatly, and we have provided you more information in the inner pages. And there are several points at which the suit can be dropped or voided, so be sure to be aware of them.
What will be served? It will likely be a summons, which states whom the case is against. Who is named may affect your coverage vulnerability depending on how the insurance is written. If it is a physician owner of the practice, or a member of the practice company this can be different than for an employee of the practice. If you are an owner and are sued, this can make you more vulnerability to exceed your coverage as both policies may be the same pool of money. This is not likely true for an employee. Usually there is a complaint which contains more details. Probably a bill of particulars will come at a later date, which tries to set out in significant detail the plaintiff’s case. It's necessary to respond to these within a given time, which your attorney will do with your help.
Who will your attorney be? The attorney is usually assigned by the insurance company, and in principle, you should be able to influence this decision as long as the attorney is one they have on their rolls. A meeting early on is very worthwhile to gauge the case, each other, and the working relationship. As you get further down the road change could become more awkward.
It would be common to have a case manager assigned at this point by your insurance company. The case manager is key, and will be representing you at internal discussions in the insurance company. This person is also coordinating an internal review of your case, which may define how they view you. And it is possible the case manager will be handling much or all of any settlement negotiations if one occurs. It is wise to get to know this person well, and a meeting is worthwhile, early on.