In this post, I will explain how to check to see if a particular doctor has ever been sued for medical malpractice or had a malpractice claim filed against them.
Many prospective patients want to know about prior malpractice suits when shopping for a new doctor. Others become interested in a medical practitioner’s prior malpractice history after a bad experience and are considering whether to pursue their medical malpractice lawsuit.
Before we get into the nuts and bolts of checking out a doctor’s malpractice history, I feel obligated to offer at least a little cautionary wisdom. Just because a doctor has previously been sued for medical malpractice does not mean that they are a terrible doctor. The simple reason for this is that medical malpractice lawsuits are common.
They are so common, in fact, that an estimated 75% of doctors in low-risk specialties will get sued for malpractice at least once during their careers. For doctors in high-risk specialties (e.g., OB/GYN, surgery, etc.), over 95% will defend a malpractice claim before they retire, and over half will face more than one case.
State Medical Board
All states have a medical board that issues licenses to practice medicine within their state. They also handle disciplinary complaints against doctors and other licensed healthcare professionals. This includes doctors who have had their licenses suspended or revoked. Most state medical boards publish certain information online about disciplinary actions against doctors, although the level and detail of information vary significantly.
All state medical board websites are available from the Federation of State Medical Boards. In Maryland, the state medical board is called the Maryland Board of Physicians (“MBP”). The MBP publishes disciplinary alerts when doctors are sanctioned for misconduct. They also have a searchable database that allows users to look up a doctor by name or license number.
However, remember that most state medical boards (Maryland included) do not track or publish information about medical malpractice lawsuits against doctors. The medical boards only keep information regarding disciplinary complaints or sanctions, which are different from civil lawsuits for medical malpractice.
Searching Civil Court Records Online
The most effective and reliable way to determine if a doctor has ever been sued for medical malpractice is to search prior civil case filings in your state. Most states today have their civil court records available online to one degree or another. Every civil tort case (including malpractice cases) filed in that state is theoretically indexed and searchable online.
To find out about a doctor’s medical malpractice history, you just need to search for all civil cases in which the doctor is named as a party. You may need to narrow the search parameter down (especially if the doctor has a common name). Some systems allow you to narrow by case type and party type, in which case you would search for the doctor’s name, select “defendant” as party type, and then choose tort or malpractice as the case type.
Maryland has an excellent online court records database called Maryland Judiciary Case Search (“MJCS”). MJCS has a comprehensive index of all civil and criminal cases filed in the state court system going back decades. To find prior medical malpractice cases against a doctor on MJCS, you just need to perform a search of the doctor’s name. Select “DEF” for party-type on the pull-down options to narrow your results. You can also narrow your search results to circuit court only since all medical malpractice cases are filed in circuit court.
MJCS will provide you with the complete docket for a case, which means you can see a list and a short description of everything that was filed in the case. However, MJCS does not allow users to pull up copies of the actual documents.
Medical Claims Arbitration Boards
Some states have established mandatory arbitration or mediation procedures that all medical malpractice cases must go through before a lawsuit is filed. The purpose of these systems is to prevent excessive or frivolous malpractice filings. These arbitration boards can sometimes be another source of malpractice filings against a doctor.
In Maryland, before an actual medical malpractice lawsuit is filed, the details must initially be filed with the Health Care Alternative Dispute Resolution Office (the “Health Claims Office”). Filings with the Health Claims Office usually consist of a letter or pleading-type document summarizing the allegations appearing in a full lawsuit.
Health Claims Office filings are public records, and anyone can go to their office in Baltimore and access these filings. The only drawback is that there is no searchable database, which does not help find claims against a particular doctor.
- Get more information to research a doctor’s malpractice
Ask the Doctor
This one is outside the box. But another way to determine if your doctor has been sued for malpractice is to ask the doctor directly. While they may not be required to disclose this information, many doctors are willing to discuss their professional history with patients.
Contact the Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Miller & Zois
Call our malpractice team today for a free case evaluation if you have a potential medical malpractice case.