It is almost impossible to get information on malpractice suits brought against a particular doctor. Very few states have some limited public data about malpractice suits against doctors licensed in that state. Florida, for instance, maintains a list of paid malpractice claims involving doctors, hospitals and even lawyers at https://apps.fldfs.com/PLCR/Search/MPLClaim.aspx. In almost all other states, however, there is no easily accessible public record of medical malpractice suits against any physician.
There are a few work-arounds. First, if you are considering a particular physician, ask him or her directly about malpractice suits. If the doctor seems offended or defensive, or appears evasive, that is a sign that perhaps this doctor is not one you can trust fully.
Second, if the doctor has been in practice in the same location for a long time, the courts of that area may have an index of lawsuits that is searchable by name. Sometimes this is publicly available through the internet and if not, you can often use the facilities at the courthouse or ask the court clerk to help you.
Third, a Google search might turn up information, particularly if the lawsuit is relatively recent.
Finally, the Federal Government maintains a National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) that supposedly lists all paid malpractice claims against all physicians. However, studies show that many lawsuits are not reported properly or at all, despite the fines that are supposed to be applied for failure to report. Moreover, this Data Bank is by law confidential and the information can only be obtained by insurers, hospitals or the physicians themselves. There have been sporadic efforts to make this information public, particularly when it became known that there are many doctors still in practice who have ten or more large malpractice claims paid. These efforts have always been stymied by the immense lobbying power of the organized medical profession (AMA.)
More Answers from Clark Newhall, MD