In healthcare, reputation is everything. Kim P., PT, CWS, a self-employed physical therapist, had certainly prided herself on hers. In 25 years of practice, she never had a problem with a patient’s care.
That’s what made the news that came one day so shocking.
Out of the blue, she received a call from the lawyer of a rehabilitation facility where Kim had worked years before. “I remember the conversation so clearly,” recalls Kim. “She casually said, ‘We’re being sued for wrongful death and looking at the possibility that you’ll be named as a third-party claimant in the suit.”
Read on for Kim's medical malpractice story, how her insurance company helped her through, and Kim’s suggestions for easy ways to make sure you're prepared if this happens to you.
Why a Physical Therapist was Named in a Medical Malpractice Claim
The suit was from the family of a patient who sustained bedsores while at the facility and eventually died.
Kim was shocked that she was brought into it. “It was horrifying to think that someone died because of my lack of care.”
She didn’t even know the patient had died. She did, however, remember the patient and the concerns she had about this care.
“I specialize in wound care but was contracted by the facility to assess and recommend treatments as well as debride [the wounds].”
Fortunately, she had documentation that supported that, including notes about the dissatisfaction with the facility that the patient’s family expressed to her.
How Kim Got the Support She Needed
Being named in a malpractice lawsuit is never easy. But for Kim, it came at a very difficult time in her life. “I had just lost my husband and was dealing with PTSD from this death,” she shares. “I felt so alone.”
Fortunately for her, she made a pivotal decision earlier in her career that would provide the support she needed: she got her own malpractice insurance with Berxi, part of Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance.
So, when she got the news about the lawsuit, she immediately called Berxi.
“Ed [Hoskins], my Claims representative, called right back and put me at ease,” she shares. “I remember breaking down with him on the phone. He really had empathy for what I was going through and promised to walk beside me every step of the way.”
Ed shares his perspective.
“They were looking for at least $250K from Kim. She was going through a lot in her personal life and was beside herself thinking she was going to be liable for that money,” he recalls.
Ed went over Kim’s policy and the details of the case. “I didn’t find any liability on her part,” he shares. “She had documentation from the facility that provided specific instructions of the care she was contracted to provide. It proved she was not involved in the patient’s demise.”
Kim was relieved but still faced a challenge in her defense: the nursing facility was not sharing the documentation and discovery notes with Berxi or the attorney assigned to the case.
“There was something in those records that probably showed that Kim had no involvement,” said Ed. “But the facility wasn’t being forthcoming.”
How Claims and the Lawyer Worked Together to Help Kim Fight
As her representative, Ed helped find Kim an attorney from her state.
“Ed got me the best attorney I could have ever had.”
What’s more, Ed stayed involved with Kim every step of the way, keeping her informed and checking in to see how she was doing.
Ed also provided unwavering support for Kim. At one point, the attorney suggested that Berxi may have to give the patient’s family a nuisance fee of about $20,000. Kim was adamant that she did nothing wrong and didn’t want to pay.
“I helped that patient on so many levels. I refused to give in and pay anything,” she recalls. “Ed supported me with that decision.”
3 Helpful Takeaways for Other PTs
The rehab facility eventually settled the case, and not unexpectedly, Kim was not found liable.
“We were so happy that we were able to remove one big obstacle in her life,” shares Ed.
Through this difficult experience, Kim learned some powerful lessons, which she is quick to share with PT colleagues.
1. Get Your Own Malpractice Coverage
Even though the facilities where PTs work offer some insurance, every PT should have their own malpractice insurance.
She was so thankful that she chose Berxi. “They were willing to cover me. I work on wounds, which the majority of physical therapists won’t do, and many insurance companies won’t provide coverage.”
2. Document Everything as Though You Might End up in Court
Though her documentation helped her defend herself, the experience helped her see that there was room for improvement. Since then, she has made changes in her own practice.
“I had written notes when I went in to talk to the administrator about the patient’s care, but I could have included more details about the conversations,” she points out.
In fact, Kim is so passionate about the importance of documentation that she contacted the president of the software company she uses for recording notes and told him about changes they need to make to their program.
Kim understands that PTs, who are often assessed for productivity, feel like they don’t have time to document, but she can’t emphasize enough how important it is.
“You have to take the time to do it because you may end up having to defend yourself. There’s no such thing as over-documenting.”
3. Understand the Value of a Good Claims Team
The process of being sued for malpractice is daunting. A good Claims team is so instrumental in not just helping make the process easier, but also in providing the emotional support that comes with having a claim filed against you.
“Ed was so compassionate,” Kim says. “He listened and kept me informed on the status of the case. He really cared about what I was going through and reassured me that Berxi was on my side and that I didn’t need to worry.”
As Kim’s story highlights, malpractice claims can happen to anyone at any time. The best defense is having your own malpractice coverage from a provider that offers the support and experience you need to defend the reputation and livelihood you’ve worked so hard to build.
To get coverage like Kim, see what a Berxi malpractice policy can do for you. Simply start a quote today