What Is the Difference between Filing a Complaint with the State Medical Board and Suing for Medical Malpractice?
One of the hardest parts of holding a doctor accountable for substandard treatment, or medical malpractice, is realizing there is a problem in the first place. Unless someone has medical training, a patient is at the mercy of the doctor’s knowledge and must trust the doctor’s statements and medical advice are sound. In addition, the emotional toil, especially if it is long term or chronic, a health problem brings to the person and their family can easily cloud thoughts of questioning the doctor. However, once it is apparent someone received bad or inappropriate medical treatment from a doctor, they want to do anything and everything they can to punish the physician and recover for their injuries. Florida, like other states, offers two avenues to hold doctors responsible for negligent behavior – filing a complaint with the Department of Health or suing for malpractice. An article in the Miami Herald looked at a Miami cosmetic surgeon fighting the state’s efforts to permanently revoke his license after four women alleged they suffered severe injuries following liposuction and Brazilian butt lift procedures in May 2015. The state severely restricted his ability to practice medicine in the wake of the allegations and now hopes to convince the state medical board to revoke his license.
Medical Board Complaint
If a patient wants a doctor penalized through restrictions on their ability to practice medicine, filing a complaint with the state medical or investigative agency is the first step to initiate this process. This type of complaint is part of an administrative process that investigates allegations that a doctor acted in a way that was unethical or endangered the safety of patients. In Florida, the Department of Health conducts these investigations as part of its responsibility to regulate all health facilities and practitioners. If an investigation is supported by evidence, representatives from the Department will prosecute the case through to administrative hearing that makes recommendations on appropriate punishments to the state medical board. The board is not required to following the Department’s recommendation and may choose to impose another punishment or none at all. Under administrative rules, the possible penalties for malpractice include two years’ probation up to revocation and a fine of $250 to $5,000 for the first offense, and additional offenses are subject to a one-year suspension followed by probation up to revocation and fines of $1,000 to $5,000.
Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
A malpractice lawsuit is a judicial process that seeks to determine civil liability for negligent medical treatment and compels guilty parties to pay the plaintiff money damages to compensate them for their injuries. The outcome of a medical malpractice will not have a direct effect on the doctor’s ability to practice medicine and does not mean the doctor would be guilty of a crime. One key difference between filing a complaint against the doctor and filing a lawsuit is the complaint does not cost the complaining party anything to file and requires minimal involvement compared to a medical malpractice lawsuit. It is not uncommon to initiate both processes as the complaining party and/or their lawyer receive copies of the findings by the Department of Health, which can help build evidence needed in the lawsuit. Note that medical malpractice insurance is not required under Florida law, so filing a complaint with the Department of Health may be the only feasible way to hold a doctor accountable.
Talk to a Medical Malpractice Lawyer
Medical malpractice is a highly complex matter that should not litigated without the direction of an experienced lawyer. The Miami law firm of Pita Weber & Del Prado has extensive experience with these cases and can help you recover for your injuries. Contact us to schedule a free consultation.