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If a Doctor Gives Bad Advice Online, Can You Sue Him or Her?

Written by Berkowitz

online adviceJust about everything people do today is online. From shopping for the latest gadgets to getting the morning news and even getting a few tidbits on medical advice. While you can get information online, most of those articles and blogs come with a disclaimer that they should not be used as a substitute for real advice from a real physician. That is because physicians have not examined you; therefore, their information is nothing more than a starting point – not a final diagnosis. But, if you receive information from a doctor anonymously online via a question/answer board, can you sue that physician for giving you bad advice?

This is an important question to ask, especially as health boards become more popular. People turn to the Internet to ask doctors online what they should do, what they are suffering from, or even get treatment options. The rapid proliferation of websites featuring physicians is astounding. As a person who is injured by the advice you received online, you may wonder if you could successfully sue a physician for that advice and the harm you suffered. The answer is not as simple as a yes or no.

Filing a Suit Against an Anonymous Online Physician

To be successful in this type of lawsuit – meaning that the judge does not dismiss the case, and actually sends the case to a jury – you would need to overcome several glaring obstacles in your way, such as:

  1. Anon User – It is unlikely that the judge will allow the lawsuit to continue when you have an anon user. This is the threshold for determining if the physician you received advice from was actually your physician. Essentially, this questions whether he or she entered into a physician-patient relationship with you. This is not as easy to answer as it might seem. For example, if you are chatting with the physician online and he or she says that more research will be done to look into your condition further. By the doctor accepting the task of researching your condition, this could be considered accepting you as a patient by the court. If, however, that same physician says that he or she will research the condition, but only as a friend and not as a treating doctor, then he or she has removed the liability.
  2. The Website’s Disclaimer – The website where you received your online advice from a doctor may also have a disclaimer that states that any physician on the site is providing anonymous advice and that the website is not liable for advice received. The website may also state that it has no official relationship with the physicians on the site; therefore, they are free from liability. If there is no disclaimer on the site, then a judge would let the jury decide the relationship.
  3. Reasonableness of the Case – Even if the website claims ownership of the advice and the physician never stated that he or she was not taking on the person as a patient, there is the reasonableness of the situation. A reasonable person is unlikely to assume that an anonymous physician is now treating him or her – especially if they have not seen that physician in person and don’t even know the name or contact information. Therefore, there is no right for that person to complain about the advice received or the quality of that advice – meaning that there is no lawsuit.

When Your Actual Physician Causes Injury – Contact an Attorney

While you may not be able to sue an online or anonymous doctor for his or her advice, you can file a lawsuit against your treating physician if he or she fails to diagnose you, treat you, or cause serious injuries due to negligence. In order to see if you have a case, contact a medical malpractice attorney in Connecticut. Contact Berkowitz and Hanna LLC today to schedule a no-obligation case evaluation. Call 866-479-7909 or contact us online to get started.