When considering a new doctor, you may have questions about their area of specialization, education, and training. However, you also want to know about their experience as a practicing doctor. Some hospitals and websites have reviews from prior patients but reviews only provide a limited glimpse at what to expect. You may be more interested in knowing if your doctor has a history of medical malpractice.
Some victims of medical malpractice suspect their doctor did something wrong in causing the injury. The patient may want to look up their doctor to see if they’ve done this before. Even if your doctor has never made a mistake in the past, they could have made a one-time mistake that caused your injury. To find out if your injury was caused by medical malpractice, get a case evaluation from an experienced medical malpractice attorney.
Does My Doctor Have a Medical Malpractice History?
Medical malpractice involves a doctor doing something outside the standards of care of other doctors that causes a serious injury or death. When a doctor is found liable in a medical malpractice lawsuit, it is because a jury found the doctor made a mistake that caused harm to the patient. Unfortunately, it can be hard to find out about your doctor’s past malpractice claims.
There are resources to help you find out about a prior medical malpractice claim but it can be hard to navigate online and understand what really happened. There are a few ways to find out about legitimate claims of malpractice against your doctor and what happened. Unfortunately, getting all the information about a case can be much more difficult and can require some footwork and expenses.
Internet Searches and Your Doctor’s Name
One of the easiest ways to find out about past problems is just to “google” your doctor’s name. If you search for your doctor and find out about prior lawsuits, allegations of malpractice, or a criminal history, that can be helpful in deciding which doctors NOT to visit. However, if you don’t find information, that may not prove anything.
For some doctors, this can be unhelpful, especially when the doctor has a common name and you get too many results for people that are not your doctor. Searching for a Dr. Smith, Dr. Johnson, or Dr. Miller can turn up nothing useful. Searching for doctors might also turn up anyone with a doctorate degree, even if they are not an MD or DO.
If your internet search turns up nothing, do not be surprised. Many of the sources of prior malpractice events are not published online. If something negative is posted about your doctor, your doctor could take legal action to have the statements removed or pay for “reputation” companies to monitor negative online information to get that information deleted.
Online Medical Reviews for Medical Errors
There are a number of private companies that support online reviews about doctors, hospitals, and health care providers. These websites act as a third-party “crowd-sourced” review site. These websites rely on the public to do the work of inputting information and online content to get ratings and reviews for doctors. Some of these crowd-sourced medical review websites include:
There are a few problems with relying on these online review sites to find information about your doctor. These reviews may not be reliable or accurate. A doctor or hospital can also pay to have these reviews optimized, boosted, or have negative reviews removed.
If you are looking at a favorite restaurant online that has negative ratings, you may wonder why the reviews of your favorite restaurant are so low. Looking at the reviews, you may notice some of the people reviewing never even ate at the restaurant. A review could say, “I went at 9 o’clock and they said I could not be seated because they were closing. One star.”
Other reviews might have gotten the name or location of the restaurant mixed up with another spot. In some cases, a competing restaurant or former employee could get friends to give negative reviews just to hurt the restaurant’s business. This is one of the pitfalls of relying on online crowd-sourced reviews.
Doctors can also pay to improve their ratings. Sponsored reviews could go to the top of the review listings. Doctors can improve their ratings just by creating an account. Doctors can also pay to have negative reviews removed, or threaten legal action to have negative experiences erased from the review sites. Unfortunately, the consumer may have no idea what is going on behind these rankings or how reliable they might be.
Medical Malpractice and State Board of Medicine
The state medical board will generally have useful information about doctors licensed in that state. The first thing you can search is to make sure the doctor is licensed to practice medicine in your state. In some cases, people have represented themselves as doctors even if they are acting illegally and don’t have a license to practice medicine.
Each state has its own medical board. Medical boards are often in charge of licensing physicians, reviewing complaints, and disciplining doctors for errors or unethical conduct. One of the problems with relying on the medical board is that it is generally made up of other doctors. Medical boards may have a negative reputation because they may let off dangerous doctors too easily, or issue light sanctions that have the doctors back in practice even after harmful conduct.
Illinois Medical Board Searches
“The Medical Disciplinary Board’s purpose is to consider allegations of misconduct or malfeasance by members of the medical professions and to recommend appropriate discipline to the Secretary.”
For people in Chicago and other areas in Illinois, they can search their doctor’s name to see their license status, and a search may also indicate any prior disciplinary measures. However, the website search results may not be very informative.
Maryland Medical Board Searches
If you are a medical malpractice victim in Baltimore or anywhere in Maryland, you can check the Maryland Board of Physicians’ website for disciplinary actions involving doctors in your area. This includes information about:
- Disciplinary Alerts
- Denial of Licensure
- Unlicensed Individuals with Sanctions
- Current Sanctions
- Cease and Desist Orders
- Terminated Sanctions
- Administrative Actions / Civil Penalties / Fines
- Facility Actions
Pennsylvania Medical Board Searches
“The State Board of Medicine regulates the practice of medicine through the licensure, registration and certification of members of the medical profession in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”
If you live in Philadelphia or elsewhere in Pennsylvania, you can use the state board website to search for licensure of your doctor, to find out if it is active, inactive, suspended, or if there have been other disciplinary action. However, it may not provide the whole story about your doctor’s prior malpractice lawsuits.
Washington DC Medical Board Searches
“To protect and enhance the health, safety, and well-being of District of Columbia residents by promoting evidence-based best practices in health regulation, high standards of quality care and implementing policies that prevent adverse events.”
For medical patients in Washington, D.C., you can check the board of medicine’s website for medicine disciplinary actions taken each year. However, it may not be all the information you need to determine if your doctor has committed malpractice. The best way to find out about your individual situation is to have an experienced medical malpractice attorney review your case.
Department of Health for Hospital Complaints
Some medical malpractice cases are caused by the hospital failing to follow proper procedures that endanger patients. In this case, a specific doctor may not be to blame but instead the injuries were caused by the hospital’s negligence. You may be able to look at complaints against your hospital or clinic by reviewing your state’s health services agency.
Court Records About Medical Malpractice
The most complete records about medical malpractice cases can come from the courts. The courts may hold the records of prior medical malpractice cases filed in civil court in your county. Each state and each county (and sometimes each courthouse), has different requirements for searching and reviewing court records. A lot of the information is in the public record, which means any member of the public can look at the records if they go through the process.
However, a lot of the information may be restricted, such as another person’s medical records in a prior case. In some cases, the terms of a settlement can be sealed so the public is not aware of the amount of the settlement or if the doctor admitted to any wrongdoing. Cases that were settled generally have less public information available than cases that go through trial and the reality is that most malpractice and injury lawsuits get settled before trial.
If you want to review court records where you live, contact your civil courthouse to find out about the process of searching and reviewing records of prior medical malpractice lawsuits. You may have to pay for a copy of records or you may have to go to the courthouse in person to search and review records.
Does a History of Malpractice Claims Increase the Chances in Your Case?
If you do find out about a prior medical malpractice lawsuit, don’t jump to conclusions too soon. Most doctors will be named in a medical malpractice lawsuit in their career, even if the case results in no payment to the plaintiff. To get a better understanding of your doctor’s medical malpractice history, talk to an experienced malpractice law firm about your case.
Just because a doctor has been named in a complaint and has a lawsuit on their record does not mean they did anything wrong. It is a common practice in medical malpractice lawsuits to name all possible defendants. This is related to the legal process where injury victims must generally cast a broader net at the beginning because they need all available information before they can narrow down the claim.
For example, if a patient suffers an injury because of a left-behind object in their body after surgery, the patient may have no idea which doctor was responsible because the patient was unconscious at the time. In a lawsuit, the injury victim would file a claim against all the doctors and healthcare professionals involved in the surgery, including lead surgeon, additional surgeons, anesthesiologist, nurses, and anyone else present, including the hospital or clinic. As they get more records, they may find out which surgeon was responsible for the error and only pursue the claim against the doctor who caused the injury.
As a medical malpractice case goes through discovery, where they get all the relevant information, then some defendants can be dismissed from the case. As a result, one of the doctors who was innocent of any wrongdoing could have their name attached to a medical malpractice lawsuit even if they were later dropped from the case.
According to a report in the New England Journal of Medicine, by the age of 65 years, 99% of physicians in high-risk specialties faced a medical malpractice claim. About 75% of doctors in low-risk specialties will face a malpractice claim by age 65. Some of the highest risk medical specialties include neurosurgery, thoracic-cardiovascular surgery, and general surgery.
Was Your Injury Caused By Medical Mistakes?
Even if a doctor with a history of medical malpractice, it does not mean that they will make a mistake again. Just like a doctor who has never been sued for malpractice could be at fault for causing a mistake. Many medical malpractice injuries are never reported. Even if a patient suspects they were injured because of an error, they may not file a claim because they think they don’t have a strong case or they do not want to go through the process of a civil lawsuit.
You can do research on your doctor’s disciplinary history but even a doctor with a spotless record could slip up and make a mistake. At Gilman & Bedigian, we will use our experience, knowledge, and dedication to investigate medical accidents caused by medical errors or negligence. Our aggressive trial lawyers have helped our families across the country recover millions of dollars in compensation after a medical injury. Contact us online or call our law office today at (800) 529-6162 for a free consultation.