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How Do You Find Malpractice Lawsuits Against Doctors?

Dec 07, 2022

Most people try their best to find a good doctor. Many start by asking around for the opinions of friends, family members, and even coworkers who may have needed a doctor with the same specialty. Internet searches often turn up basic information about the doctor's medical school and specialty in addition to basic contact information. But what about malpractice suits? The vast majority of patients have no idea of whether their doctors have been held liable for medical malpractice in the past, or even where to begin to find out.

How Do You Find Malpractice Lawsuits Against Doctors?

You need to protect yourself and your family by finding out your doctor's malpractice history. Read on to learn how you can find malpractice suits.

Why You Should Research and Find Malpractice Suits Against Doctors

Outside of getting a few individuals' personal experiences, which may not accurately represent the doctor's full history, how do you know whether you can really trust a doctor not to make a potentially life-changing mistake? One of the best ways is to find out whether any past patients have filed malpractice suits against the doctor.

What Is Malpractice?

For medical liability for malpractice, a jury or a judge must determine that the doctor's failure to meet the duty of care for the applicable physician specialty caused the patient's injury. In other words, the doctor's medical treatment did not meet the standard of care that most doctors in that specialty would have followed, and the substandard care hurt the patient. In some cases, malpractice can lead to permanent disability, reduce the chances that a patient survives a disease, or even cause death.

In most states, there are special rules for medical malpractice cases that do not apply to other types of cases. For example, in many states, the complaint — the legal document that begins a lawsuit — must include a special statement from another doctor attesting that the doctor being sued did not meet the standard of care. In nearly all medical malpractice cases, another doctor will need to provide expert testimony.

What Is the Difference Between Filing Suit and a Judgment?

Just because a former patient filed a malpractice suit against a doctor does not mean that the doctor actually committed malpractice. Filing suit is not the same as the doctor being held liable for malpractice. A judgment for malpractice means that a judge or jury found that the doctor's substandard care hurt the patient. If there was not a judgment against the doctor, then one of the following may be true:

  • The case is still pending. Malpractice cases can take years, depending on the number of parties involved, the circumstances of the case, and other factors.
  • The case was dismissed because it was settled. A settlement can mean the doctor did provide substandard care and the patient agreed to accept a settlement to avoid a protracted court case, or the doctor did not provide substandard care but agreed to pay a small settlement to avoid the expenses and time required to prove it in court. Sometimes the reason for a settlement is a mixture of both.
  • The court dismissed the case. The court may have dismissed the case because the patient failed to meet a legal hurdle or could not prove malpractice, either because it did not happen or because the patient did not have enough evidence to prove it.

What Do Malpractice Suits Tell You?

Malpractice suits, at the very least, tell you that the doctor has angry former patients. Remember, however, that the cumulative risk for malpractice suits over a period of time is much greater for high-risk specialties. That means that in specialties with a lower chance of good outcomes, patients are more likely to sue, even when the doctor did not commit malpractice or cause actual damages.

Malpractice suits with a judgment against the doctor are the best indicator that a physician made a serious error in the past. However, even legal actions without judgments may be meaningful — they may have been good cases that were settled out of court, or a legal technicality may have prevented the judgment. Remember that just to file suit in many states, the patient would have needed at least one other doctor to attest that malpractice occurred.

How and Where to Find Malpractice Lawsuits Against Your Doctor

There are a variety of ways to find malpractice suits, depending on where you live and where the doctor is located. Many of them are publicly available.

Medical Board

Your state's medical board is the best place to start. In addition to malpractice actions, the medical board may also have records of disciplinary actions. 

Court Records

If you know all of the locations where the doctor has practiced, then you can search the court records in those locations. Many states provide their court records online.

Department of Health Services

The Department of Health Services (or your state's equivalent agency) often provides certification for healthcare facilities. You may be able to search for information about a particular facility's certifications or history. Some of these agencies also may maintain malpractice records for physicians. 

Online Reviews

Another place to find information about physicians is online reviews. Like all online reviews, they should be considered with some skepticism. These reviews may reflect a personality conflict or misunderstanding that does not accurately represent the standard of care provided by the physician. Online reviews for medical care are also tricky because a patient may not have the medical experience or knowledge to provide a fair review of the quality of care. Many online reviews repeating the same complaints, however, can be a telling sign that a physician should be avoided. And a physician's inability to communicate and educate patients can lead to substandard care.

How to Avoid Incidents of Malpractice as a Patient

The best way to avoid incidents of malpractice as a patient is to do your research to find a trustworthy, knowledgeable, and capable doctor who provides professional care. Talk to the doctor's former patients if possible. Look for lawsuits against doctors, medical malpractice, and disciplinary actions. Read online reviews. 

You should also ensure that you communicate well with your doctor. If you don't feel like your doctor is addressing your concerns, do not be afraid to speak up or find another doctor. And before any major procedure or medical treatment, get a second (or third or fourth) opinion.

Get the Reasonable Care You Deserve

You deserve reasonable medical care. If you think you may have been the victim of medical malpractice, then you need to get legal advice right away because the time limits to file legal action are short. Contact the attorneys at The Spence Law Firm for help right away.

Schedule a free consultation with The Spence Law Firm, LLC

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If you are struggling with a serious injury, or are fighting against seemingly impossible odds against big corporations, insurance companies or the government, call us to speak with our team of trial lawyers who will fight for you. We take no fee unless we earn it by winning your case.