In the state of Florida, if you believe that you have been a victim of medical malpractice or of some other unethical or illegal action or behavior by a Florida healthcare provider, the Florida Department of Health’s Division of Medical Quality Assurance investigates complaints and reports involving healthcare practitioners and enforces appropriate Florida laws. The actions that the Division of Medical Quality Assurance may take against health care practitioners are administrative in nature, such as reprimands, fines, remedial education, license suspensions, and license revocations.
Issues which are not within the authority of the Florida Department of Health’s Division of Medical Quality Assurance include fee and billing disputes, personality conflicts and the bedside manner or rudeness of practitioners. The Department of Health cannot represent individuals in civil matters to recover fees paid or to seek remedies for injuries. In Florida, individuals who believe they may be the victims of medical malpractice will need to consult with an experienced Tampa medical malpractice attorney.
HOW DO YOU FILE A COMPLAINT WITH THE DIVISION OF MEDICAL QUALITY ASSURANCE?
- You must file a signed, written report. A downloadable form is available at the Florida Department of Health’s Division of Medical Quality Assurance website.
- If you are filing multiple complaints, you must use a separate complaint form for each practitioner whom you wish to file a complaint against.
- Be precise and include copies of the relevant medical records, correspondence, contracts, and any other documents that will help to verify your complaint.
- Medical records will be needed to process your complaint. A healthcare practitioner cannot disclose a patient’s name or records without authorization, so an Authorization for Release of Patient Information form is included with the complaint form. It must be signed and completed, and signatures must be witnessed or notarized.
- The Division of Medical Quality Assurance will notify you in writing of the status of your complaint throughout the procedure. You’ll need to notify them of any change of address during the complaint processing period.
- If your allegations are determined to be possible violations of applicable Florida laws and/or professional rules or standards, your complaint will be investigated.
- If your complaint is investigated, under Florida law, a copy of the complaint form will be provided to the healthcare practitioner.
- The Division of Medical Quality Assurance will investigate an anonymous complaint if the complaint is in writing and is legally adequate, if the alleged violation of law or rules is substantial, and if the Division has reason to believe, after a preliminary inquiry, that the alleged violations may be true.
If the review of a complaint determines that a possible violation took place, attorneys review the investigative report to recommend action which may include an emergency order, a closing order, or an administrative complaint. Emergency Orders are issued by the Department’s State Surgeon General against licensees who pose an immediate threat to the health, safety, and welfare of the people of Florida.
A Closing Order is recommended if the investigation’s results do not support the allegation(s). The subject and the complainant are notified if a Closing Order is recommended, although the complainant may appeal the decision within sixty (60) days of notification by providing additional information. An Administrative Complaint is recommended when the investigation supports the allegation(s). The subject of the complaint is entitled to a copy of the complete case and has the right to choose one of the following:
- A Hearing Involving Disputed Issues of Material Fact: The subject of the complaint disputes the facts in the Administrative Complaint and chooses a hearing before the Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH). All involved parties may be asked to testify.
- A Consent/Stipulation Agreement: The subject of the complaint may enter into an agreement with the Florida Department of Health. The terms of this agreement may impose penalties negotiated between the subject or the subject’s attorney and the Department’s attorney(s).
- A Hearing Not Involving Disputed Issues of Material Fact: The subject of the complaint does not dispute the facts in the Administrative Complaint but still desires to be heard. The subject may provide oral and/or written evidence in mitigation or in opposition to any punitive action.
- Voluntary Relinquishment of License: The subject of the Administrative Complaint elects to surrender the license and to cease practice.
IS THERE A FEE OR A TIME LIMIT FOR FILING A FORMAL COMPLAINT?
The Florida Department of Health may contact the person who has filed the complaint to request additional information or to testify in a formal hearing before the Division of Administrative Hearings. There is no fee or cost for filing a complaint; however, the person filing the complaint may be required to pay for copies of medical records. In some cases, there is a time limit for filing a complaint. If the incident occurred prior to July 1, 2006, there is no time limit, but for incidents that have occurred or occur subsequent to July 1, 2006, the time limit is six years.
However, if fraud, concealment, or intentional misrepresentation of the facts in the case hindered or prevented the discovery of the alleged violation, the time limit for filing a complaint with the Department of Health is extended to twelve years. If it involves criminal actions, the diversion of controlled substances, sexual misconduct, or impairment by a licensee, there is no time limit.
SHOULD YOU SUE FOR MEDICAL MALPRACTICE?
Only you, after consulting with an experienced medical malpractice attorney, can determine if your formal complaint should be followed or accompanied by a medical malpractice lawsuit. You should know that in recent years in the United States, fewer than 10,000 medical malpractice payments have been made annually on behalf of doctors (the number was 9,758 in 2011). If you make the decision to file a medical malpractice lawsuit, keep these five facts in mind:
- A failed medical procedure or treatment does not necessarily mean that malpractice has been committed. To prove medical negligence, a malpractice victim must show that a healthcare provider breached the accepted standard of care by acting irresponsibly or recklessly.
- Surveys routinely tell us that healthcare professionals remain one of the most trusted groups in the United States. When a malpractice claim leaves jurors with doubt, they typically give healthcare professionals the benefit of that doubt.
- Keep to the basic facts. You should be able to explain briefly and specifically how a doctor or a hospital breached the accepted standard of care. Otherwise, a jury may not be able to follow your story, and you probably will not prevail.
- Keep complete and accurate records. Make and keep copies of all the paperwork related to your case. Acquire a complete set of your medical records at once if you suspect that medical malpractice has happened.
- In Florida, with only a couple of precisely spelled-out exceptions, claims for medical malpractice must be filed within two years of the injury. Exceptions may apply when a healthcare professional has concealed any act, error, or omission that may constitute medical malpractice.
It’s always smart to keep comprehensive notes and records of treatments, prescriptions, and visits to doctors. Anyone who believes that he or she has been a victim of medical malpractice in Florida should consult with a slip and fall lawyer, and with our experienced Tampa slip and fall attorneys. If medical malpractice has cost you or has caused your health to decline, you have the right to take legal action, and whether you file a formal complaint, a medical malpractice claim, or both, you’ll also be protecting others by helping to prevent emergency medical malpractice in the future.