“Interest groups have established regulations that delay and discourage claimants from filing malpractice suits. However, some of these rules can be used to your advantage.”
In the state of Montana, the Montana Medical Legal Panel (MMLP) is an administrative body involved in all malpractice suits. The MMLP is the result of effective lobbying efforts to protect medical providers from claims made against them. No other profession is given the same litigation protections that the MMLP provides the medical community.
The panel screens all potential malpractice claims before the claims are allowed to be filed in court. Their sole purpose is to delay and dissuade claimants and their attorneys from filing lawsuits against physicians or health care providers.
For an attorney, the MMLP is a major barrier to filing a successful medical malpractice lawsuit. However, there are a few ways to use their rules and regulations to your advantage.
Divide and Capitalize
The rules of the MMLP require that the group utilize a separate panel for every medical provider identified as a responsible party. As a claimant, it would be wise to separate all possible claims against each provider using these separate panels.
Medical providers will attempt to consolidate matters to reduce the expenses to them. Don’t allow it. A claimant, through his or her counsel, should use the MMLP to consider and review claims against any and all medical providers who could possibly be a defendant. The claims against individual providers will be separately considered by a panel without cost to the claimant.
Providers will try to consolidate these hearings. Insist upon the claimant’s rights being protected.
Take Immediate Action
Once the panelists and chairperson are selected for a hearing, immediately request that the chairperson require the medical providers to offer substantive responses that state the standard of care applicable to their circumstances and how they provided it. If this request isn’t voiced, the decision will be made without your input. Don’t let this matter be an issue that the director or their staff decides upon.
Don’t Allow for Delay
The pace is important when working with malpractice suits. Demand an immediate hearing within the 120 days required by the Montana Medical Legal Panel (MMLP) rules. Don’t allow medical malpractice defense attorneys to push matters outside the permitted 120 days. These lawyers are insurance-hired attorneys and are masters at the procedural delay. It is to their advantage to discourage claimants from purposefully delaying payment on a settlement of claims.
Likewise, if the medical providers request additional records for prior treatment or post-event medical care, demand that they satisfy the requirements of the MMLP rules. That is, they must explain how the information being requested pertains to the narrow-scope of questions that the MMLP is limited to. These requests for additional records are usually an attempt to delay the proceedings because records have “just been [obtained?]”. Truthfully, these are thinly veiled attempts to conduct discovery, which by the way is not permitted in the MMLP proceeding.
The Bottom Line
Always remember that the intent and purpose of the MMLP is a delay and dissuade claimants from pursuing claims against medical providers. Their aim is not to seek justice or decipher the truth. As the claimant’s counsel, use the MMLP for your purposes to fully investigate potential claims and evaluate them at the expense of the medical professionals and their insurers.
Don’t hope for a favorable result from a biased group like the Montana Medical Legal Panel. Use the medical providers that you brought claims against to refine your claims by forcing them to defend their conduct and hopefully the providers will point their fingers at the conduct of their fellow physicians. Encourage the lawyers and medical providers on the panel to provide comments regarding the claims.