In this post, I will explain how to go about checking to see if a particular doctor has ever been sued for medical malpractice or had a malpractice claim filed against them.
A lot of prospective patients want to know about prior malpractice suits when they are shopping for a new doctor. Others become interested in a medical practitioner’s prior malpractice history after they have a bad experience and are considering whether to pursue their own 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 bad 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 career. 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 health care 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.
A list of all state medical board websites is 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.
Keep in mind, however, 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 find if a doctor has ever been sued for medical malpractice is to search prior civil case filings in your state. The majority of states today have their civil court records available online to one degree or another. This means that 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 do a search for all civil cases in which the doctor is named as a party. You may need to narrow the parameter of the search 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 and select “defendant” as party type and then chose 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. To narrow your results, select “DEF” for party-type on the pull-down options. 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 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 an additional 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 which summarizes the allegations that will appear 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, so this is not very helpful for finding claims against a particular doctor.
- Get more information to research a doctor’s malpractice
Contact the Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Miller & Zois
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