Virginia medical malpractice because the Doctor is not a specialist

Virginia medical malpractice because the Doctor is not a specialist

Virginia medical malpractice because the Doctor is not a specialist 150 150 Lauren Ellerman

If someone calls our office and asks us to draft a Deed of Trust, or help with their real estate purchase we decline. 

If someone calls our office and needs help with a child custody or criminal issue, we decline and provide names of specialists in the area. 

Yes, our attorneys studied these subjects in law school, passed the bar exam which tested on criminal, domestic and real property. And yes, our attorneys have likely even handled some of these issues in the past, but we have found that clients want a lawyer who knows the law, is specialized and able to handle their case without question or doubt. And we only want to provide services in the areas we are experienced, trained and proficient. 

Would you go to an Italian restaurant and expect the chef to make you egg rolls? Of course not. Why then, do consumers allow health care providers who are not specialists, perform procedures that the physician has little to no experience performing? Or agreeing to have procedures done in the office when the hospital is safer?

Why, because we either don’t ask the right questions, or worse, we make no effort at all to investigate the provider’s experience and specialty. 

We are often called by Virginians who have undergone a surgery, procedure, or treatment only to learn after the provider lacked experience performing the procedure. 

We even read in the news about tragic cases where location of a procedure negatively impacts the outcome – recall when Joan Rivers died in an out-patient surgery center, not fully equipped with emergency personnel and life saving equipment?

We see it most often with the following procedures:

  • Wound care / plastic surgery procedures (in out patient clients, or by doctors not trained as plastic surgeons)
  • Epidural steroid injections (by doctors or nurses who are not trained as interventional radiologists or anesthesiologists) 
  • Procedures done in “outpatient surgery centers”
  • Nuanced bariatric surgeries
  • Vascular work done by surgeons who are not vascular surgeons or specialists 

So, if you have an upcoming treatment, procedure or surgery scheduled, ask the following of the doctor and her staff:

  1. How many of these have you done this week / month / year?
  2. How am I different from your other patients?
  3. If something terrible happens, does this facility have the equipment and personnel here to handle an emergency?
  4. If not here, where would you send me?
  5. How many years have you been doing this?
  6. What is the best case / worst case outcome?
  7. How often have you dealt with the worst case outcome?
  8. Will you be performing, or a resident?
  9. Will you be there the entire time?

Years ago my Mother had to leave her preferred hospital system to find a surgeon she was comfortable enough with to perform a very risky surgery. My mother in law went out of state to find a first class spine surgeon.

Your body and health are too important not to ask these difficult questions. 

A client (after a four year case was about to be tried before a jury) asked me – “You have been to trial before, haven’t you?” The answer of course was yes- but bless him for asking (albeit a little to late to change lawyers had the answer been no)!

Bottom line – when looking for any kind of professional, whether it is a lawyer, a doctor, or plumber, never be afraid to ask about their experience.



About the author

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

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