Advertisement

How can I find out if a doctor has been sued for malpractice?

Stuart A. Linder, MD
Plastic Surgery
Check with the local state medical board to determine malpractice record of your physician. Remember, anyone can sue anyone for anything. Each malpractice suit should be evaulated for obvious merit. 
Dr. John J. Connolly
Healthcare Insurance & Policy
Information on a doctor’s malpractice history is available in a certain number of states, such as New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Connecticut. There is strong public and sometimes political pressure to make that information more available to the public.
Stanley C. Newhall, MD
General Practice
It is almost impossible to find out if a doctor has been sued for malpractice until you have sued him or her.  There are about four indirect methods you can try, but the best way is to act the doctor directly.  If the doctor answers frankly and without taking offense, that tells you a lot about his or her character.  If the doctor refuses to answer, acts offended, is evasive or shifty or tries to make excuses, that tells you even more.  People are not accustomed to asking this question of their doctors and you may find it difficult at first, but this is the only really effective method.
Indirect ways include Googling the doctor by name, checking with your state's licensing board to see if they keep a public database (most states do not), and checking with the courthouse in the town where the doctor practices.
There is a nation-wide government database (the National Practitioner Data Bank) of physicians who have paid a malpractice claim, but studies have shown that many doctors' malpractice claims are not reported to the NPDB, even though there are fines for not reporting.  Moreover, the information is not public and the only way you can get it is to ask the doctor to give you his NPDB report.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Finding out if a doctor has been sued for botched practicing is certainly a legitimate qualifying factor when you're shopping for a new physician or specialist. As long as the info is put into context, that is.

To find out if any malpractice lawsuits have been filed against a physician, call the county clerk's office where he or she practices, as well as the state medical licensing board and the state insurance department (you can ask the latter if any claims are on record for the doctor). You can also check your doctor's record on Web sites such as www.docboard.org.

Just remember that it's common for doctors to be sued, and many cases are dismissed or the physicians win, so the fact that a doctor has been sued for malpractice isn't necessarily a damning sign.

However, if he or she has been sued several times in the past few years and many of those suits have been settled or resulted in the award of large sums to the patient, I, as a doctor, would see that as a warning sign to move on. Lighting can indeed strike in the same spot twice, but four or five times is a little troubling.

YOU: The Smart Patient: An Insider's Handbook for Getting the Best Treatment

More About this Book

YOU: The Smart Patient: An Insider's Handbook for Getting the Best Treatment

Everyone needs to become a smart patient. In fact, in the worst cases, your life may even depend on it. Number one bestselling authors and doctors Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz have written this...

Continue Learning about Managing Your Health Care

Using In-Home Medical Devices Safely
Using In-Home Medical Devices Safely
In Young Frankenstein (1974) Gene Wilder plays a neuroscientist who inherits a castle complete with a typical mad scientist’s laboratory, filled with ...
Read More
How can I keep children entertained in the doctor's waiting room?
Shelley Peterman SchwarzShelley Peterman Schwarz
Take a favorite stuffed animal, some small toys or a favorite book to entertain your child while...
More Answers
Know Before You Go: Colonoscopy
Know Before You Go: ColonoscopyKnow Before You Go: ColonoscopyKnow Before You Go: ColonoscopyKnow Before You Go: Colonoscopy
Get tips for what you should do to prepare for a colonoscopy, and learn what to expect during and after your procedure from Dr. Oz.
Start Slideshow
Why Do People Avoid Going to the Doctor?
Why Do People Avoid Going to the Doctor?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.