Issue: April 2014
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Danger and Controversy: Lyme Disease Liability Risks

Introduction

Lyme Disease: Liability Issues

Although approximately 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported to the CDC each year, this number does not reflect every case of Lyme disease that occurs in the U.S. every year. The actual number of cases may be five to ten times higher than the number of reported cases, or as many as 300,000 annually.

 

Early treatment can be critical in curing Lyme disease. The condition can be difficult to diagnose, however, as its symptoms often resemble other types of disorders. Confirming that a patient has Lyme disease generally requires laboratory tests, but these tests can be inconclusive.

 

The treatment of Lyme disease also raises controversial questions. Physicians and other medical professionals disagree on testing methods, treatment methods, and long-term implications of the disease. Health insurers may refuse to pay for controversial methods of treatment.

 

Attorneys, physicians, hospitals, insurers, employers and others should be aware of the types of lawsuits and other liability issues that may arise in connection with the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease.


The Perspectives: Improve Your Strategy

Attorneys:

What proof is needed to establish medical malpractice or negligence for an injury resulting from the diagnosis or treatment of Lyme disease? And, what is a potential strategy for the attorney to employ

Physicians:

How can liability for medical malpractice in diagnosing or treating Lyme disease be avoided? And, what is a potential strategy for the physician to employ?

Insurers:

Can a payout under a medical malpractice liability policy be avoided by proof that the health provider was not negligent in diagnosing or treating Lyme disease or there was no coverage for the provider’s actions? And, what is a potential strategy for the insurer to employ?

Employers:

Can an employer be subject to liability for an employee’s contraction of Lyme disease? And, what is a potential strategy for the employer to use?


Practice the Technique: Checklists

Attorneys:

Check this list of facts and circumstances tending to show a provider’s liability for malpractice or negligence in the diagnosis or treatment of Lyme disease.

Physicians:

A physician should review the items on this list when defending against claims of malpractice or negligence in the diagnosis or treatment of Lyme disease.

Insurers:

The insurer should check these “red flags” and inconsistencies when investigating a claim of negligence in the diagnosis or treatment of Lyme disease.

Employers:

Use this checklist to determine if the employee’s Lyme disease is “work related” and occurred “in the course of the employment.”

Expert Analysis

Is Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome Considered a Distinct Condition?

Monica E. Embers, Ph.D.

What Are the Accepted Guidelines for the Treatment of Lyme Disease?

Phillip J. Baker, Ph.D.

Are the Lyme Disease Guidelines Flawed? Are the Treatment Options Controversial? Why Is Informed Consent Important?

Lorraine Johnson, JD, MBA

Is Lyme Disease Under-Reported and Ineffectively Treated?

Daniel J. Cameron, MD

Litigation

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Arbitration or mediation may be required by contract or statute, may be mandated by the court or, in some circumstances, may be the appropriate method for a negotiated resolution.


Reasons to Reach Settlement

The following are reasons why the attorney, physician, insurer, or employer would want to reach settlement, and not take the action to trial.


Reasons To Go To Trial

The following are reasons why the attorney, physician, insurer, or employer would want to take the action to trial.


Jury Awards and Settlements

How much have juries awarded and what settlements have been reached recently in Lyme disease and similar disease cases?



Medical Examples

Lyme Disease

This part provides detailed medical information on Lyme disease, its etiology and prevention, the symptoms of Lyme disease, diagnosis and delayed diagnosis, treatment and delayed treatment or the failure to treat, and post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome. It also discusses the patient’s prognosis and ability to work.



Law and Medicine Resources

Law and Medicine Resoures

Provided is a listing of law and medical references for further information on Lyme disease.


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Danger and Controversy: Lyme Disease Liability Risks

Table of Contents
Introduction

Expert Analysis
   Monica E. Embers, Ph.D.
   Phillip J. Baker, Ph.D.
   Lorraine Johnson, JD, MBA
   Daniel J. Cameron, MD

The Perspectives: Improve Your Strategy
   Attorneys
   Physicians and Health Providers
   Insurers
   Employers and Risk Managers

Practice the Technique: Checklists
   Attorney Checklist
   Physician Checklist
   Insurer Checklist
   Employer Checklist

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Reasons to Reach Settlement

Reasons To Go To Trial

Jury Awards and Settlements

Lyme Disease

Law and Medicine Resoures