A medical board complaint can be just as serious as a malpractice lawsuit. A defense attorney advises on how to respond to medical board complaints, and we list some common mistakes physicians must avoid.
Our last discussion outlined the possible risks medical board complaints pose to your livelihood and reputation, pointed out medical malpractice insurance issues you must check on before you have a complaint and described the complaint processes standard to medical boards across the U.S.
1. Being uninsured or underinsured for the costs of medical board complaint defense. These costs can be six figures during a time your income may also be disrupted by the complaint.
2. Not being represented by experienced legal counsel in a medical board complaint. Your counsel should be experienced in dealing with your local board’s process, members and the applicable issues.
3. Failing to timely inform your insurance carrier about the complaint. This can cause your coverage to be reduced or denied.
4. Not timely responding to a complaint by either not responding at all, responding incompletely to charges against you or not responding quickly enough to identify qualified counsel and gather evidence required to mount a complete defense.
5. Failing to inform your employer, partners or organization about the complaint as you may be contractually required to do. This reporting violation can jeopardize your employment or ownership interest, further compounding your problems.
6. Panicking and responding emotionally to the complaint instead of in an organized, tactical way. This includes communication and debate with the complaining patient.
7. Destroying, concealing evidence or conversely, talking about the case to third parties, including answering questions or producing evidence without counsel.
8. Making statements or admissions that may be used against you or that may negate your attorney-client privilege with your counsel.
For more detail on this representation, I spoke with my colleague, attorney David Williams with Davis Miles McGuire Gardner in Tempe, Ariz. Williams’ litigation practice includes defense in before a variety of medical, dental, and professional licensing boards.
The number of steps in the process, coupled with the need to respond and defend your license, indicate that it’s a good idea to be professionally represented by an attorney.
“While representation by an attorney is not required by any sate’s board, this is a complex process that requires you respond in a complete and timely way at each step. Missing a deadline can stop your defense cold and cost you dearly. Your responses need to be complete, and your ability to practice is at stake. Treat it as seriously as a med-mal lawsuit and make sure you are putting your best foot forward in those responses with a professional’s help."
David also warned against the temptation to save money by representing yourself if you are not adequately insured as I previously recommended you should be in our last discussion. “While you are likely highly skilled in your area of medical practice, that area is not the practice and interpretation of applicable law. Your counsel must navigate board regulations in a way that ensures your due process rights. Get help in ending this process as early as possible.”
Williams further emphasized the importance of stopping to take a breath and regroup if you get surprised with a complaint. “It’s important that you understand the possible steps the board can take in the process, how your responses fit into the larger context of those steps and the very specific timeframes and requirements of those responses. This is where I think professional representation makes the biggest difference."
Ike Devji, JD, has practiced law exclusively in the areas of asset protection, risk management, and wealth preservation for the last 16 years. He helps protect a national client base with more than $5 billion in personal assets, including several thousand physicians. He is a contributing author to multiple books for physicians and a frequent medical conference speaker and CME presenter.