• Dental Comedy-Don't Be the Star
  • November 8, 2013 | Author: Beth Boone
  • Law Firm: Hall Booth Smith, P.C. - Atlanta Office
  • I had a grandmother that loved the Carol Burnett Show, and we logged many a Saturday night together watching the same. One of our favorite skits was Tim Conway as the dentist - www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfTyEtVIe84 . Even fellow actor Harvey Korman as the patient could not keep from laughing at the antics of the bumbling dentist. It sometimes seems as if every area of the legal and medical profession has been portrayed in some form or fashion on television or the big screen. We see doctors and health care providers depicted in soap operas, dramas about the emergency department, shows in which physicians consult about complex cases, and even reality series about plastic surgeons. The legal profession has literally been explored in every facet- from public defender shows to private practice dramas to courtroom comedies (think Allie McBeal) to  programs about judges and their lives. How do you avoid being the star of your own dental comedy?

    You may not think it is possible that your seemingly normal practice could have situations that turn into real life story lines. A dentist I know recently told me that he had reviewed a few “medical legal” cases. His eyes wide, he recounted depositions that read like novels and seemingly benign incidents that resulted in lawsuits. While what most health care professionals such as dentists fear most is the professional negligence action (when a patient sues for injuries allegedly resulting from an action or inaction of the provider), other  legal issues could have equally as important  consequences. Just think of the following areas of law and the possible story lines that could arise:

    Alternative Dispute Resolution/Arbitration, Business Litigation, Bankruptcy & Creditor Rights, Civil Litigation, Commercial Litigation
    ADR and/or arbitration provisions may allow you to avoid the courtroom in certain situations. Business litigation could result from a multitude of non-negligence related matters. Legal advice may be of assistance in the lease negotiations for your practice, or in realty purchases. Proactive advice and counsel may protect you from being the star in these often high-stake financial dramas.

    Data Protection and Risk Management, Employment, Regulatory
    You discover your employee has thrown away old, unredacted patient files in an open dumpster. Someone obtains the same and actually uses this protected health information of your clients. What are your responsibilities? How are HIPAA violations enforced? Can’t you just see the cast of Law and Order covering this fact scenario?

    Additionally, employment law covers a wide range of human resource related issues (channel Mimi from the Drew Carey show).

    Family Law/Domestic Relations, General Liability
    Divorce and custody issues can arise in both the lives of your staff but also in the lives of your clients. You could be called upon to testify or to produce records. What are your responsibilities?

    General liability issues may also arise with your practice—is someone  responsible for that slip and fall accident on the unmaintained sidewalk outside your office?

    Government Affairs, Health Care
    As a dentist, your participation in professional groups may be how you actively track industry  related matters of relevance to you and your practice. However, you may need additional outside assistance with all the new health care law changes- in interpretations of relevant statutes and regulations.

    In summary, the areas in which a full-service law firm such as Hall Booth Smith, PC, can assist you in your practice go beyond representation in a professional negligence matter. In addition to the examples above, attorneys can assist with insurance coverage questions, product liability matters, buying and selling a practice, or workers compensation claims. Or we can provide representation when you pen the next country music hit! But above all, know that counsel can assist with many of these story lines- comedies and dramas- that you are scripted. You CAN avoid starring in your own dental comedy.