SENDING COMPLAINT LETTERS TO YOUR DOCTOR

My Grandfather was a gifted letter writer.

He once wrote a toothpaste company and told them how much he enjoyed their product. They sent him a free case of toothpaste.

After a fishing incident wherein is hearing-aide ended up in the Atlantic Ocean, and Grandad was able to use it again after a slow bake of the device in a warm 175 degree oven, he sent a letter to the manufacturer filled with great prose and praise of the device.

In his 80’s, he told my Mother he was thinking of sending a letter to his wife’s doctor about the importance of physical and romantic activity for elderly persons. He had read an article in the Washington post on the subject and thought it important his wife’s doctor know of the research.

Thankfully, we talked him out of the last letter.

Sending complaint letters or any letter to health care providers is tricky business.

A few years ago we sued a nursing home alleging that it was responsible for the death of an elderly woman. During mediation of the case, the nursing home presented us with a letter that our client had written to the nursing home, thanking them for their care, stating ” We don’t blame you for what happened to mama.”

Well, had that case gone to trial, that letter would have certainly been used to paint our clients as money grubbers, and not concerned citizens fighting to protect other victims of elder abuse.

In another case many years ago, a defendant hospital produced a letter from our client wherein she promised to get a Lawyer and sue the hospital and close it down.
When your first response to a personal loss and family tragedy is to threaten a lawsuit in writing, it doesn’t help paint a picture of a bereaved child.

I rarely recommend patients and or family members send letters to health care providers. You can file a concern with a nursing home – but if you do, stick to the facts and leave out the exposition.

The following words do not help you in any way, in trying to express your frustration or disappointment with a medical provider. In fact, if I see a potential client has written a letter which includes any of the following words, I will most likely NOT take their case:

Lawyer
Lawsuit
sue
“Shut you down”
Angry
Demand
respect
revenge

You get the picture. Yes, medical malpractice will cause family members to be angry and upset. They will cause victims to wonder if they have legal rights.

My advice – save your frustration for the courtroom and do not send letters of any kind to your physician…You may change your mind about a few things and it is hard to take those statements back.

I am sure my step-grandmother, and grandfather were glad he didn’t send that article to her PCP after all!

Lauren Ellerman

Lauren Ellerman

In 2011, Lauren Ellerman was named "Young Lawyer of the Year" by the Roanoke Bar Association for her work in the community. To speak with Lauren about your personal injury case, contact her at lellerman@frithlawfirm.com.