PUTTING THE BRAKES ON DRIVERS WITH EPILEPSY
The Legal-ease column, “Epilepsy Patients Crash: Legal Airbags Protect Most Neurologists, But Buckle Your Seat Belt Just the Same,” (Jan. 16, page 18), provides a timely reminder that neurologists may face third-party liability for certifying an epileptic patient to drive, or failing to report a patient that should not be driving in those states with express mandatory reporting statutes.
Perhaps a greater liability risk is the allegation of failure to properly instruct the patient in a voluntary reporting state. Neurologists are duty-bound to advise patients regarding the legislation in their jurisdiction, and emphasize the importance of complying with the relevant laws.
Dr. Richard Beresford correctly notes that the physician should be protected if the medical records document that the patient has been told not to drive. However, it is possible to achieve an additional layer of protection by advising the patient in writing to comply with the regulations, and keeping a copy of the letter in the medical chart. This simple step precludes the inevitable “he said – she said” finger-pointing which may arise in an undeniably emerging area of liability
James C. Johnston, MD, JD
Neurology Associates, San Antonio, TX