Malpractice actions result when clients believe that professionals failed to act correctly or appropriately. Accountants, doctors, dentists and lawyers are among the professionals that potentially face malpractice lawsuits. For example, a doctor can be sued for malpractice by a patient if he negligently treated the patient. However, a judgment against the doctor is entered only after the patient proves that the doctor acted incorrectly. Doctors must carry malpractice insurance (independently or through their practice) to protect them if they are sued. Some medical fields, such as anesthesiology and cardiology, carry high risk and receive more malpractice suits, which should not be evaluated similarly to lower-risk fields like general practice.
Review your state’s regulations about disciplinary actions. While litigation results often are available to the public, some medical boards restrict certain information, such as about investigations or complaints.
Contact your state’s medical board and search through posted information. For example, if the doctor works in Sacramento, the Medical Board of California (http://mbc.ca.gov) discloses information on its website about past malpractice lawsuits. The Board even identifies the complaint number, court, docket number, judgment amount and date of action.
Find out if the doctor has practiced in a different state so that you can search for records in each state. If the doctor recently moved to Miami from Las Vegas, his Florida record might not include disciplinary actions or judgments from Nevada.
Browse websites that rank doctors, namely based on their specialty or primary area of practice. Local and national websites exist such as http://bookofdoctors.com and http://healthgrades.com. As many websites gather information freely from the public or through patient surveys, anyone can provide biased information and evaluate a doctor negatively.
Register with a commercial search company like http://jvra.com or http://mdnationwide.org. You can purchase a background check to verify the doctor’s education, specialties, awards, sanctions and suspensions.
Review local court records. Consider if the doctor primarily has been based in San Francisco. Since the San Francisco Superior Court discloses information about most cases, you will be able to uncover records of past malpractice cases.
Search multiple sources as a comprehensive, complete listing of all complaints or malpractice issues does not exist. Even if you purchase a report, information might be missing.
Malpractice complaints will not become public record when settled through private dispute resolution methods such as mediation or arbitration.