In the past decade, doctors throughout Florida have increasingly been the target of medical malpractice complaints and lawsuits. No matter how careful and skilled you are as a practicing physician, you could well find yourself facing such allegations. Unfortunately, even unfounded allegations of malpractice can result in a complaint being filed with and investigated by the Florida Department of Health.
Many of these complaints are unfounded, yet you need to take them seriously and address them promptly. A complaint against you from a patient, employer, colleague, employee, hospital or other healthcare organization could jeopardize your medical license and ability to practice medicine.
Therefore, as soon as you become aware that a complaint has been filed against you, you should seek the help of a knowledgeable, experienced Florida license defense attorney for doctors. A qualified license defense attorney will know how to respond effectively to the allegations and be able to help protect your license, reputation and career.
What Happens When A Medical Malpractice Complaint is Filed with the Florida Department of Health?
Investigation of a Florida Medical Malpractice Complaint
The Florida Department of Health investigates complaints and reports filed against physicians for alleged instances of medical malpractice, which is defined in Florida law as the failure of a practitioner to provide “that level of care, skill, and treatment which, in light of all relevant surrounding circumstances, is recognized as acceptable and appropriate by reasonably prudent similar health care providers.”
When a complaint is filed, an investigator from the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) is assigned to review it for possible violations of Florida’s Medical Practice Act. Usually, the investigator will notify you of the complaint and ask to discuss it with you. We recommend providing strong written response through an experienced medical license defense attorney rather than independently providing a statement.
Unfortunately, some physicians ignore this notification, not realizing that their lack of response, or even an ineffective response, can have serious repercussions. Whereas a thorough response written by an experienced Florida medical license defense attorney can allow the Prosecution Services Unit attorney to either close the case for legal insufficiency or recommend closure to the Probable Cause Panel, an ineffective response can lead to an administrative complaint being filed.
It is important to note that once an administrative complaint is filed, your case becomes public, whereas if probable cause is not found, the case is closed and remains confidential. Therefore, regardless of your opinion of a complaint, it is in your best interest to get advice from a license defense attorney and respond thoroughly to the Department of Health’s initial notification.
An experienced Florida medical license defense attorney may be able to resolve issues at an early stage of the investigation and avoid further complications. Your attorney will obtain the investigative file with all the evidence the Department has collected and submit a thorough response containing all the facts and legal arguments (including statements from experts that support your course of treatment and adherence to the standard of care) as to why an administrative complaint should not be filed.
Probable Cause Panel
Almost all cases go to a probable cause panel (PCP) for a determination of whether an administrative complaint should be filed. The PCP is composed of two or three board members, of which one or two are physician members of the Board and one is a consumer member.
The PCP reviews all of the evidence and information collected during the investigation, including the information and evidence submitted by your attorney, and determines if probable cause exists. If the PCP decides probable cause does exist, an administrative complaint is filed.
Administrative Complaint Process
When an administrative complaint is filed, the Formal Administrative Complaint process begins. The case becomes public so even if you prevail in a final hearing, your reputation as a physician can be damaged.
At this point, you have several different options to consider. Your Florida medical license defense attorney will help you consider all facets of the case and choose the option that is in your best interest:
- Settlement. Your attorney can negotiate a settlement with the Department of Health, which must be presented to and accepted by the Board of Medicine. This settlement agreement will still constitute license discipline that can damage your career.
- Informal Hearing. At an informal hearing, you can provide evidence to mitigate the complaint; however, you waive your right to a formal hearing or settlement with the Department of Health. Ultimately, you will be disciplined and, in most cases, will not have the right to appeal.
- Formal Hearing. If you disagree with the facts in the Administrative Complaint, you may choose to have a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ) in the Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH). The formal hearing resembles a traditional trial, in which you present evidence and witnesses and cross-examine the Department’s witnesses.
How Can a Florida Medical License Defense Attorney Help Fight Allegations of Malpractice?
Just as patients benefit from advice from a medical professional, physicians can benefit from professional legal guidance when facing a complaint of negligence. As an experienced Florida license defense attorney, Jonathan Rose understands the complete Department of Health complaint process and will:
- Respond effectively to investigators.
- Advocate on your behalf to achieve a positive outcome with the Probable Cause Panel.
- Protect your rights if an administrative complaint has been filed.
- Advise you on your best course of action.
- Retain qualified expert witnesses to combat the Department’s expert opinions
- Prepare a strong defense for a formal administrative hearing.
It is best to get an experienced medical license defense attorney involved fighting allegations of malpractice or standard of care violations as soon as you are aware the Department of Health could be investigating a complaint against you. Attorney Jonathan Rose has years of successful experience helping doctors respond to investigators and can possibly help resolve the issue before the complaint goes any further.
If, however, a complaint has progressed past the initial investigation, Attorney Rose can still intervene and advocate on your behalf. He will work diligently to challenge and mitigate the negative consequences an administrative complaint can have on your reputation, your career and your future.
Fight Allegations of Medical Malpractice with Competence and Experience
When your medical license and career are at stake, you need an attorney who will fight aggressively to protect your rights and your future. You need an attorney who has successful experience in defense and healthcare law in state, federal and administrative courts.
Jonathan Rose has twenty-one years of experience in state and federal courts. He has helped many doctors challenge administrative complaints, license suspensions, and criminal charges and has the expertise in defense and healthcare law to help protect your medical license, career and future