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How to File a Complaint Against a Doctor or Hospital

Frustrated doctor being sued for medical error.

When you visit your doctor or go to the hospital, you have a reasonable expectation that your doctor will treat you with a high degree of care. Unfortunately, doctors are often overworked, have little time to devote to personalized patient care and make mistakes that constitute medical malpractice.

At The Law Offices of Michael M. Wilson M.D., J.D. & Associates, our experienced Washington, D.C., medical malpractice lawyers know how devastating it can be to be a victim of a physician’s error. If you believe that your doctor or hospital has acted in a way that warrants a complaint, you should quickly report the doctor and/or hospital to the property authorities. If you have suffered harm as a result of malpractice, you should meet with an experienced attorney with our law firm as soon as possible to discuss the option of filing a medical malpractice suit for damages. Our lawyers are here to assist you – just reach out to us today to learn more about your rights and how we can help.

Types of Complaints

Being frustrated with your doctor or your condition does not necessarily mean that you have grounds to file a complaint or a medical malpractice lawsuit. The human body and mind are complicated. Sometimes, even the best medical care in the world is not enough to remedy a person’s ailment. With that said, certain actions do warrant filing a complaint. These actions include:

  • Medication errors Prescribing the wrong medication or the wrong dosage of medication, failing to guide a patient on how to properly use a medication or potential side effects, and administration errors all warrant the filing of a medical complaint.
  • Diagnosis errors – While doctors make mistakes, failing to properly diagnose a serious condition, either as a result of a misdiagnosis or a delayed diagnosis, can have tragic effects for an affected patient and may be unacceptable.
  • Improper treatment – When a patient is suffering from a certain medical condition, the patient may require medication, therapy, surgery or other interventions. Failing to prescribe the right treatment or surgery, or implementing a treatment or surgery unnecessarily, warrants a complaint.
  • Releasing a patient too early – Discharging a patient at the appropriate time and with the appropriate guidance and instructions is important. If a patient is discharged before the patient is ready, or if the patient is discharged without the correct instructions, the patient could suffer harm.

Any time that a doctor breaches the duty of care owed to a patient, filing a complaint can help to protect other patients and hold that doctor responsible for his or her negligence.

Federation of State Medical Boards Physician Data Center

The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) is an organization that consists of more than 70 state medical boards from throughout the country. The organization’s Physician Data Center is a database that provides detailed profiles about the physicians and other medical professionals who are licensed and regulated by those boards. When you look up a doctor’s profile, you can find information that includes the doctor’s:

  • Educational background
  • Board certifications
  • States where the doctor is admitted to practice
  • Any past disciplinary actions against the doctor.

When you look up a profile, you will get a better understanding of a doctor’s background and experience, which can help you to determine whether the doctor has training to handle your specific type of medical problem. Of course, the disciplinary history is also important. Generally speaking, doctors are disciplined by medical boards only after an investigation has determined that the doctor did something highly unprofessional or provided sub-standard care to a patient.

Medical Board Websites

Every state and the District of Columbia has an agency that licenses, regulates and, ultimately, disciplines doctors if they engage in professional misconduct. These boards have databases as well which are available to the public. In the Washington, D.C., area, you can check out:

Keep in mind: Many doctors are licensed and practice in several different states. In fact, it’s highly common for a doctor to practice in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. So, you may need to check out multiple medical board websites to get a complete picture.

National Committee for Quality Assurance Report Cards

The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) is a nonprofit that measures the quality of not only individual health care providers but health care organizations and health care plans as well. The NCQA Report Cards assesses doctors and their practices by using a scoring system that takes into account several factors including malpractice history. The NCQA does not provide as much detailed information about past complaints against a doctor or hospital. Still, the Report Cards can help you to get a good overall picture of what to expect when you work with a health care provider.


If you really want to dig deep into the background of complaints against a specific doctor or hospital, you can go to the local courthouse and look up whether any medical malpractice lawsuits have been filed against them. Typically, a patient will file the lawsuit in the county where the doctor practices, or where the hospital is located.

What Should You Do with All of This Information?

When you conduct a background search on a doctor or hospital, you should step back and look at the big picture. For example, a doctor’s rating on a website may show that the doctor has a high success rate with patients. At the same time, the doctor may also refuse to treat high-risk patients, which can skew the doctor’s record. Likewise, a doctor with a lower success rate may be an excellent doctor that simply cares for anyone that comes through the door, including challenging cases.

If you see red flags in a doctor’s background, your next step may be to simply ask the doctor about it. If a doctor refuses to discuss it with you, that may raise another red flag. It can be a sign that you should consider looking elsewhere for medical care. However, if the doctor is open and honest about what happened in the past, it may be a positive sign. After all, communication and transparency are crucial when it comes to having a good doctor-patient relationship and making sure that you get the quality of care that you deserve.

Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Being a Victim of a Medical Errormedical-malpractice

If you are a victim of a medical mistake, it is important that you file a complaint –not only can this serve as a piece of evidence should you pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit, but filing a complaint can also help you to protect others from a similar error or from an unfit doctor. Knowing how to reduce your risk of being a victim of a medical error in the first place is also important. Some steps that you can take include:

  • Ask questions – When you ask your doctor about your care and treatment, you will have a better understanding of your condition and treatment options. You will also get a better idea of whether your doctor is treating you appropriately. Asking plenty of questions helps to hold a doctor accountable.
  • Do a background search – Before you see a doctor of any type, ranging from a family practitioner to a surgeon, you should conduct a background search on the doctor. Not only should you search for any official complaints or disciplinary actions against the doctor, but you should also read reviews about the doctor or hospital. The past experiences of other patients can provide helpful information about the type of care that a specific doctor or facility provides.
  • Take a trusted friend or family member with you – Another way to reduce your risk of becoming a victim of a medical error is to take a trusted friend or family member with you to any doctor appointment that you have. A friend may be able to ask questions that you would not think to ask yourself. You can also take notes to help you remember details of the appointment that you may otherwise forget. A friend or family member can also serve as a source of evidence as a witness should you pursue a medical malpractice claim.

Reach Out to Our Experienced Washington, D.C., Medical Malpractice Lawyers Today

If you believe that your doctor has acted in error, and if you have suffered harm as a direct result, not only should you file an official complaint, but you should also meet with an experienced Washington, D.C. medical malpractice lawyer. At The Law Offices of Michael M. Wilson M.D., J.D. & Associates, we have years of combined medical and legal experience that we can bring to your case. Contact us today for a free review of your case and learn more about how we can assist you.

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