The Four Ds of Negligence

By Nitin Chhoda PT, DPT on May 18, 2013

Nitin Chhoda shares the four Ds of negligence in a private practice setting so that clinicians can prevent negligence from occurring in the business.

negligenceThe medical profession is a rewarding one, but full of opportunities to inadvertently run afoul of rules and regulations. Most patients are sincere.

They simply want to get better or see an end to their pain, but there exists a pool of unscrupulous clients who are vigilant in their search for a reason to sue a medical provider for a breach in one of the four Ds of negligence.

The four Ds encompass duty, dereliction, direct cause and damage. The majority of healthcare practice management providers won’t experience the harm to their reputation, clientele and clinic that result from a lawsuit, but medical professionals should be aware that they can be held liable vicariously through the actions of their staff.

To avoid the four Ds of negligence, it’s essential that everyone is conversant in the proper procedures. To be guilty of negligence, a disgruntled patient must prove that the practitioner took action, or failed to, that was ultimately detrimental to the client.

Clinicians should be wary of patients that come into the office requesting specific medications, tests and treatments.

1. Where Duty Begins and Ends

The first of the four Ds refers to duty. Clinicians have a duty to their patients to provide the most accurate diagnosis and care, utilizing their extensive education and experience. Healthcare workers have a duty to inform patients of potential problems they observe upon examination in the clinical setting. They’re under no obligation to provide medical information about any condition they notice in connection with strangers and casual acquaintances, which is a part of negligence.

2. Dereliction of Duty

Dereliction is the second of the four Ds of negligence and refers to actions that a healthcare provider may fail to take. If a medical professional observes a skin condition that could be cancer but neglects to inform the client, it’s a breach of duty.

3. Making a Bad Situation Worse – the Direct Cause

Direct cause is the third element of the four Ds. In this type of negligence, the onus is on the client to prove that the healthcare provider knew about a potential risk, didn’t inform the patient, and the client was injured as a result.

4. Collecting Damages from Clinicians

Rounding out the four Ds of negligence is damages patients can collect in a lawsuit. Damages are the financial compensation clients can collect and includes lost wages, medical expenses and mental duress.

Vicarious and Collateral Liability

Practice owners can be held liable for staff members who make mistakes, don’t follow proper procedures or overstep the boundaries of their responsibilities.

negligence of practice

That includes defamation of character, slander and making libelous statements. It also encompasses invasion of privacy, sharing records without informed consent, violating patient care standards, and malfeasance.

Medical practitioners must work within established laws and parameters when treating patients and ensure staff members are cognizant of what constitutes a breach of the four Ds of negligence.

Staff must be trained in potentially litigious situations for themselves, the practice and the consequences. Education, an understanding of procedures and identifying clients that may come equipped with a lawsuit mentality will help anyone in the medical profession avoid the four Ds.

About Nitin Chhoda PT, DPT

Nitin Chhoda PT, DPT is the CEO of In Touch EMR and In Touch Biller Pro, an electronic medical records and medical billing software system built be leaders in the physical therapy software industry, with thousands of satisfied customers across the world. For more information, please visit www.InTouchEmr.com and www.InTouchBillerPro.com

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