The public often has a distorted idea of what happens when a doctor is charged with medical malpractice. A common assumption is that, if the charge is meritorious, the doctor will no longer practice medicine. Thus, when doctors continue to practice after one or more meritorious cases of malpractice, their patients are often rightfully concerned. In Kentucky and Ohio, the prevalence of medical professionals continuing to practice regardless of the number of cases against them, even if many have been settled, continues to grow. Many patients are none the wiser since the information is not required to be provided to patients.
What happens after a malpractice suit?
Depending on the disposition of the suit – whether it went to trial and the doctor was found guilty or not, or whether it was settled out of court – the outcome for the doctor could be very different. If the case went to trial and was dismissed, while there will still be a record of the accusation and charges, no action will be taken in terms of consequences. In cases that have been settled, or wherein the doctor was found liable, there is usually a financial payment to compensate the injured patient. This creates a permanent record of the charge. Depending on the severity, the doctor may lose his or her license to practice medicine in the state. However, the overwhelming majority of negligent doctors suffer no consequences other than their insurance premiums rising, due to a claim having been paid.
The penalties surrounding licensing are not decided by the court, but rather by the State Medical Board, which has considerable discretion about punitive measures. Even if a doctor admits to committing medical malpractice, he or she will not likely have any action taken against their license to practice medicine. Every case is unique.
How to protect yourself and your family from dangerous doctors
Unfortunately, the onus for checking whether your family doctor has been sued for malpractice, or settled such suits, is on you. While the state licensure board is responsible for disciplining or removing dangerous doctors from practice, many escape consequences. One Kentucky report for the years 1990-2002 found that only one quarter (24%) of doctors with five or more medical malpractice payouts were disciplined by the Board. However, the information for malpractice suits and settlements can often be obtained via the internet.
The Ohio State Medical Board does not directly address malpractice claims for the public, but licensing information is online, provided you know the doctor’s first and last name. In Kentucky, the same data is also freely accessible online. For information about whether claims have been brought against your doctor in either Kentucky or Ohio, you can call the County Clerk’s office directly, because these lawsuits are public record. Before seeing any new doctor, it is wise to check his or her licensing status and whether any legal action has been taken against him or her. The Better Business Bureau website is another resource to check for issues.
At Crandall & Pera Law, our medical malpractice attorneys are here to be your voice when doctors fail in their required standard of care, for your or for a family member. If you are seeking a caring, yet aggressive legal representative, please contact our Kentucky lawyers at 877-686-8879, our Ohio lawyers at 877-686-8879, or use our contact form to make an appointment.