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A Gag Order in a Medical Malpractice Case

A gag order is usually a court order. It might be passed by the judge to remove a person from the court who is causing disturbances, or it could be for restricting prejudicial publicity that the participants in the trial are trying to give to the press. However, in a medical malpractice case, the defense attorney might ask for a gag order, as a condition to the settlement.

Keeping a Lid on the Results

Suppose you have filed a medical malpractice case against a doctor, and negotiations for a reasonable compensation are proceeding very well. After days of hard negotiations, the defense finally agrees to a generous amount that is acceptable to you. However, it can happen that the defense attorney might not want you to publicize the settlement terms, as a condition to agreeing to a marvelous settlement.

This might seem outrageous and shocking to you, as you want everybody to know what you and your family had to go through because of the wrongdoing of the doctor. You want the world to know the harm and losses you have suffered because the doctor was negligent and failed to provide the basic standard of care. However, now you are surprised to find that your attorney is advising you to agree to the gag order, as that is the only way of settling the case.

Reasons behind the Defense Asking for a Gag Order as a Condition to a Settlement

The gag order is also called a non-disclosure agreement, where you formally agree not to reveal anything about the case in public. You might wonder why the doctor, his attorney, or his insurance company would not want you to publicize the settlement terms or divulge things about what happened to you. The gag order wants to restrict you from divulging anything about your injuries, harm done, the negligence of the doctor, and the amount of compensation you will be receiving. There can be two main reasons for such a gag order.

1) The doctor or hospital does not want the publicity, as it would ruin their reputation. They would not want public to know how there was violation of basic standard of care, or how the doctor was negligent. Even though the case is being settled, it does not necessarily mean the doctor or hospital has admitted negligence. People may think that the settlement might have been a business decision. However, when the victim publicizes everything then there will be no doubt left in the mind of the public that a wrongdoing has happened.

2) The defense might not want the public and other attorneys to know, the amount, the medical malpractice case was settled for. Doctors or hospitals are worried that the settlement amount might set a standard by which other similar cases might be defined. When a precedent is set, then victims filing lawsuits for similar injuries will want a settlement that is close to that figure. Hence, to avoid setting a precedent, most doctors and hospitals would want to impose a gag order, restricting the victim from revealing the settlement amount.

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