5 pitfalls radiologists should avoid during malpractice depositions

Depositions are a crucial part of malpractice cases, allowing defendant docs to provide their story and unearth the facts. They can also cause considerable anxiety, but there are a few steps radiologists can take to alleviate this stress.

That’s according to a new review written by medical and legal experts, published Wednesday in the American Journal of Roentgenology. Radiologists rarely provide such testimony, posing challenges when confronted by an experienced attorney. So it’s important to prep, urged Casey Stewart Branach, MD, JD, with the University of Michigan Health System’s Department of Radiology.

“Those familiar with the process are more likely to provide full and complete answers to questions, while appreciating important nuances of the plaintiff attorney’s questions,” experts wrote June 9. “Radiologist defendants should recognize that rather than intended as an unfairly adversarial process, the deposition process is designed to uncover the truth and allow justice to be served.”

Branach and co-authors offered up five common pitfalls for rads to avoid during deposition.

1) Inadequate preparation: Radiology defendants must take personal responsibility to work with their attorneys and arrive primed for questioning. At a minimum, this includes a detailed review of all case materials and potentially a practice run through the deposition process.

2) Lying: Once sworn in, a radiologist’s testimony is under penalty of perjury, with false statements considered a crime. Lawyers are also adept at detecting lies, and contradictory statements will likely be used to undermine docs during trials.

3) Volunteering too much info: However, being truthful does not mean explaining one’s entire thought process or actions, unless the attorney asks. If truthful, it’s OK for rads to say, “I don’t recall,” while avoiding speculation or guessing when they’re unsure.

4) Not listening: Be certain and direct and listen carefully to questions posed. Also, think before speaking, avoid tip-of-the-tongue answers that can be taken out of context, and seek clarification when queries are ambiguous.

5) Using notes: Most materials brought to a deposition are discoverable. Rads should be careful what they bring along, especially if items are personal or irrelevant to the case. However, if certain materials are the focus of questioning, it may be wise to have them at hand.

Read more of their advice in AJR here.

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