When choosing a doctor, it is normal for a patient to want to know whether a particular doctor has been sued before. The statistics vary, but a 2011 article from The New England Journal of Medicine reported that, between 1991 through 2005, the data indicated that 7.4% of doctors had a malpractice claim brought against them. This does not mean all of those claims were successful as the study showed that only 1.6% of doctors had a claim leading to payment.
One reason people want to know whether their doctor has been sued before is because they think a doctor who has been sued may not be good at their job or maybe they are careless. Being sued once does not necessarily mean that someone is a bad doctor. Sometimes good doctors make mistakes. Also, being sued does not necessarily mean the doctor is prone to making a lot of mistakes.
On the other hand, a lot of prior lawsuits against a doctor may be an indication that a doctor is incompetent, careless, or both. If you find out a doctor has been sued a lot, you may want to think about finding a new physician. At a minimum, you should do a further investigation into the doctor’s qualifications and track record to find out more.
Researching Georgia Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
Unfortunately, it is very difficult, if not impossible, for a patient to find out every single time a Georgia doctor has had sued for medical malpractice. It is important to point out here that not all medical malpractice claims result in a lawsuit. Like a lot of personal injury claims, claims may be settled without a lawsuit. As a result, a careless doctor may have settled a lot of claims prior to a lawsuit being filed, so just looking at prior lawsuits will not tell you the whole story about a doctor’s background. Also, someone who previously filed a claim with a doctor or their insurance company may decide not to pursue it for a variety of reasons.
Georgia law requires that all medical malpractice insurers report malpractice awards to the Georgia Composite Medical Board under O.C.G.A. § 33-3-27. This reporting requirement applies to settlements, as well as judgments obtained in court. A judgment is obtained after a trial and the judge or jury decide the case. The required report has to be sent to the State Medical Board within 30 days after the amount has been paid or a settlement agreement has been reached.
One of the best places to search for a doctor’s prior medical malpractice lawsuits and settlements is their physician profile with the Georgia Composite Medical Board. Go to the website at https://medicalboard.georgia.gov and select Look Up a Licensee on the menu bar. This will allow you to search for a licensed doctor and view their physician profile. Georgia law requires that the physician profile include the following information about prior settlements and lawsuits:
- All medical malpractice judgments or arbitration awards entered within the last ten years in which the amount awarded was in excess of $100,000.
- Medical malpractice settlements above $300,000 made within the last ten years.
- Three medical malpractice settlements made within the last ten years, if the amount of any one of the settlements was more than $100,000
- All medical malpractice settlements regardless of amount if four or more medical malpractice settlements have been made within the last ten years.
This information does not tell you the total number of times a doctor has been sued. First, the information is limited in time as it only goes back ten years. Second, it does not tell you about other lawsuits that were dismissed or that the doctor won.
This information also does not tell you how many times a doctor has had a malpractice claim brought against them. You cannot even find out about how many complaints about a doctor have been made to the Medical Board because complaints and investigations by the Georgia Medical Board are confidential. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper ran an article in February 2018 that discussed the Medical Board’s secrecy rules and how those confidentiality rules can allow bad doctors to hide negative information from the public.
Search Federal Court Records
Another way to search for lawsuits is to search the federal court records on the nationwide electronic filing system, PACER, to find out if a doctor has ever been sued in any federal court. Because the vast majority of medical malpractice claims are filed in state court, this is not a very thorough method of searching.
Georgia state courts are likely to have more information about other medical malpractice lawsuits, but they are not as easy to search online as the federal court records. Georgia does not have a statewide filing system for courts where all court records can be searched. You would have to search in each particular county, and even then, not all courts have a searchable online database of records. It would also be very time consuming to search in every single county. If you do want to search state court records, you should try searching the county where the doctor resides or where his medical practice is located. Georgia law requires that medical malpractice lawsuits be filed in the county where the defendant resides. For example, if you know your doctor lives in Atlanta or his medical practice is located there, you could try searching Fulton County court records to see if a prior lawsuit was filed against them, or if the doctor lives or works in Marietta or Smyrna, you could try searching Cobb County court records.
Have A Georgia Medical Malpractice Attorney Answer Your Questions
At The Champion Firm, we understand that people who have been injured as a result of a doctor’s error want to know if the doctor has made similar mistakes in the past. This is understandable. However, his information can be difficult to obtain without a lawsuit. But if you do have a valid medical malpractice claim and a lawsuit is filed, information about prior lawsuits and claims can be obtained in the discovery process.
If you believe that a doctor made a mistake that caused you damages, call The Champion Firm today for a free consultation.