How to Report a Doctor for Medical Malpractice in 4 Steps

Updated on November 25, 2019
Gavel and stethoscope in background. Medical laws and legal concept.

In the United States, medical negligence is the third most common cause of death. Only cancer and heart disease cause more deaths. 

The worst part? Any time you receive health care, you’re at risk for suffering from medical negligence. 

So, how can you protect yourself and still get the health care you need? Luckily, you can protect yourself by being your own advocate — listen to your body and question the medical staff if something seems off.

But sometimes, that’s not enough. Worst case scenario, you may need to report a doctor for medical malpractice. 

Read on to learn what medical malpractice is and what steps to take to report your doctor.

What is Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice happens when a doctor causes harm to a patient through negligence. For a doctor to commit malpractice, they have to violate the standard of care and cause an injury with major damages.

For example, if a surgeon leaves a clamp inside your body after surgery, that counts as medical malpractice.

Medical malpractice is a complicated issue, so it can be tough to know if your particular experience counts as malpractice. You can find specific examples of medical malpractice at

How to Report a Doctor for Malpractice

Reporting medical malpractice will protect future patients and hold your doctor accountable. If you believe you’re a victim of medical malpractice, here’s what you need to do.

1. Act Quickly

Whether you need to file a complaint against your doctor or file for a malpractice lawsuit, you need to act quickly. 

If you’re filing a complaint, the sooner you can report a doctor the more fellow patients you’ll be protecting. You could potentially prevent a repeat of your experience. 

If you think you have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit, the timing is even more critical. In order to pursue your case, you have to file for a lawsuit before the standard deadline. This is called the statute of limitations. 

Unfortunately, each state’s statute of limitations is different. Depending on your state, the statute generally ranges from one to six years.

That means you have between one and six years after your treatment to file for a malpractice lawsuit. Once the statute ends, you lose your right to pursue the case.

But, there are several exceptions that can extend the statute of limitations. With the discovery rule, the statute of limitations period begins when you first notice a problem.

For example, say you had surgery five years ago. But, last week you had an x-ray that showed a scalpel was still inside your body. You could still file a malpractice case because the statute period begins when you make the discovery. 

2. File a Complaint with Your State’s Medical Board

A state medical board is a government body that handles complaints against doctors and investigates cases, if necessary. 

Every state in the U.S. has its own medical board, which means that the process is different in every state. In most states, you’ll need to fill out a form that outlines your experience. Provide as many details as you can as well as any supporting documents.

You can find every state medical board’s contact information on the Federation of State Medical Boards website. Some states have separate boards for discipline and licensing. Make sure you’re reporting to the right one. 

Also, if you don’t live in the state where you had medical care, you’ll need to file with that state’s board. Not your home state.  

Filing a complaint can help build a legal case by establishing a record of your experience. But, reporting a doctor to a medical board is not the same as filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. They are separate processes.

After you file, the board will tell the doctor that there’s been a complaint. They’ll also inform the hospital or the health network where the doctor practices. If the medical board thinks there’s enough evidence, they can open an investigation.  

3. Hire a Medical Malpractice Lawyer

If you have a very serious complaint against a doctor, you may have grounds for a lawsuit. In that case, you need to hire a medical malpractice lawyer. They will evaluate your situation to see if you have a case.

In some situations, it might actually be best to hire a lawyer before you file a complaint with the state medical board. Your lawyer can help you with the report and keep you from including any details that might hurt your case later on. 

After the board tells your doctor and their employer (a hospital or health network) about the complaint, you may get an offer to settle. At this point, you should really contact a medical malpractice lawyer.

Your lawyer can then look at the settlement and help you decide if it’s a good deal. This is critical because if you accept the settlement, you won’t be able to sue the doctor in the future.

4. Write Online Reviews

While the official way to report a doctor is through your state’s medical board, you can also share your experience on review websites. Online review sites can be a useful platform, especially if you feel other people are in danger. It’s a good way to warn fellow patients.

Nowadays, people look for online reviews for everything from local restaurants to local doctors. Public opinion can be powerful, so informing the public can be just as effective as filing an official report. 

You might find that there are other people who’ve experienced the same negligent care with your doctor. If there are other people with similar experiences, you might feel less alone. Plus, similar reviews could even help your lawyer build a stronger legal case.

Start Your Healing Process Today

Deciding to report a doctor can be a difficult decision. It’s a serious legal matter that can have long-term effects on everyone involved.

But, a negligent doctor must be held accountable. The integrity of the medical field and the health of future patients is at stake.

Filing a report and sharing your experience can also help your own healing process. If you feel you have a case, don’t wait to contact a lawyer.

To learn more about the healthcare industry, read our website.

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