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One of the most serious problems in medical legal jurisprudence is the emotional impact of litigation on physicians. More than other businesspersons, physicians see litigation as a personal attack rather than one of the risks of doing business. The first step in defusing this emotional response is understanding the litigation process and its chronology. This understanding should help reduce the anxiety that comes from the seemingly random course of a lawsuit. More important, it will allow the physician to become an active participant in the preparation of the case, critical to ensuring that the physician's interests are properly protected. It has an added benefit of reducing the psychological burden of standing helplessly by while the lawsuit unfolds.

This chapter discusses the procedures that make up a civil lawsuit. Discovery, the court supervised investigation of the facts at issue in the lawsuit is discussed separately because of its special significance in medical litigation.

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