The first step on a potential medical malpractice case is to file a complaint.
The Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC) of the New York State Department of Health is responsible for investigating all complaints of misconduct against physicians, physician assistants and hospitals. The OPMC is also responsible for coordinating disciplinary hearings that may result from an investigation.
If a patient believes that a physician, physician assistant, specialist assistant, or hospital has acted improperly, he or she must file a written report. It is acceptable to mail a letter or send in a completed complaint form. The complaint form can be found at www.health.state.ny.us/nysdoh/opmc/main.htm. The complaint should include the full name and address of the licensee, when the problems occurred and all other relevant information. Send complaints to: New York State Department of Health, Office of Professional Medical Conduct, 433 River Street, Suite 1000, Troy, New York 12180- 2299. For a complaint form by mail or answers to questions, call OPMC’s toll- free number, 1- 800- 663- 6114.
Complaints about negligent care from other healthcare professionals, including dentists, nurses, chiropractors, podiatrists, optometrists, pharmacists, psychologists and physical or occupational therapists, are the responsibility of the State Education Department. Complaints can be filed by contacting one of the regional offices of the Office of Professional Disciplines. The complaint hotline is 1-800-442-8106. Information about filing complaints and a complaint form to download can be found at http://www.op.nysed.gov/opd/complain.htm.
Medical jargon or a medical opinion is not needed to file a complaint. It is typically understood that the patients reporting medical mistakes are not doctors.
A charge of medical misconduct is serious and investigations are complex. It may take months to resolve complaints and issues that go to hearing typically take longer.
If the investigation substantiates the allegations of medical misconduct, the Department of Health or the Department of Education will issue a formal document that lists the deficiencies and preventable medical errors. These findings of medical neglect are sometimes admissible in evidence at a trial and can help a case.
It is important to note that filing a report does not initiate a medical malpractice lawsuit, nor does it automatically help to establish medical negligence. A report filed with the state board can only affect the ability of the doctor or hospital to continue practicing medicine.
For a patient to receive compensation for harm caused as a result of the mistake, a lawsuit for medical malpractice must be filed in court, and patients should usually consult an attorney before initiating the process.
When a patient files a report with a state medical complaint board, the doctor or hospital (along with an associated insurance company) will be informed. As a result the insurance company of these healthcare professionals may consider the report as a precursor to a medical malpractice lawsuit, and offer the patient settlement money to end the issue. Once the offer is accepted, the patient loses his or her rights to sue for medical malpractice over the incident, since any deal would likely include the signing of a release of rights. Before any agreement is made, a medical malpractice lawyer can help provide a reasonable estimate of the potential lawsuit award and the likelihood of success. With this information, the patient may better assess whether the offer from the insurance company is reasonable.
If a patient wishes to hire a lawyer to pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit, it’s best to contact one as soon as possible after any thoughts of medical malpractice arise. A lawyer can assist the patient in filing the report with the state medical complaint board in order to ensure that no statements are made that could be detrimental to a future medical malpractice action.
Information on a physician’s malpractice record can be obtained by checking the State Physician Profile website www.nydoctorprofile.com or checking with the County Clerk’s office.