Each year, the Medical Board of California (MBC) receives more than 8,000 complaints about physicians and surgeons licensed to practice in the state. As part of its authority over doctors, the Board investigates these complaints. If it finds that there is a basis for the complaint, it may result in a formal Accusation being filed against the physician in question.
An Accusation is filed by the California Department of Justice after investigation and review of the complaint. It is a formal pleading document that lists all of the charges against the physician or surgeon. At the end of the Accusation, the Board will request that the doctor’s license be revoked.
Receiving a “Notice of Accusation” can be devastating, particularly because it may mean the loss of a career that you have worked your entire life to have. With the help of an experienced California medical license defense attorney, you can develop a strategy to protect your license and your livelihood.
An Accusation is the culmination of the California Medical Board’s enforcement process, which starts when a complaint is filed. A complaint may be filed by a patient, family member, a fellow health care practitioner, a hospital, or even an insurance company. The most common type of complaint received by the Board’s Central Complaint Unit (CCU) involves allegedly negligent care or treatment of a patient.
Once the CCU receives a complaint, it reviews it to determine if the allegations fall within the Board’s jurisdiction. As part of this process, the CCU will request and review a patient’s medical records, along with other relevant information. At this point, the CCU may contact you to request a response to the complaint. If you receive a phone call or letter about a complaint, you should contact an attorney immediately.
If it appears that a violation may have occurred, the CCU will refer the matter to the Board’s District Office for further investigation. This may result in a situation and fine for minor violations of the Business and Professions Code, a referral to a local District Attorney for a criminal prosecution, or a referral to a Deputy Attorney General. The Attorney General’s Office will then review the complaint, and decide whether or not to file a formal Accusation.
The Accusation will list all of the charges and/or sections of the law that the physician allegedly violated. These charges and/or violations form the basis of disciplinary action. Once a formal Accusation has been filed, a doctor may be facing penalties that range from a public reprimand, probation, suspension, or even revocation of their license.
If you receive a Notice of Accusation, you should take it very seriously. The outcome of the Accusation may depend, in part, on what you do over the coming days and weeks.
You are legally entitled to a hearing to defend yourself, but you’ll have to respond to the Accusation to state your intention of attending a hearing. If you fail to submit a request for a hearing (Notice of Defense) in a timely manner, it may result in the waiver of certain rights, like the right to a hearing. Without a hearing or a defense from you, the Board may act on the accusation without a hearing and take action.
While you do not have to have a lawyer to request a hearing and file the Notice of Defense, an experienced defense lawyer can advise you on how best to respond in your Notice of Defense, and help strategize for your hearing.
As an initial matter, you should check the Accusation to find the date of the proof of service. You have 15 days from this date to file a “Notice of Defense.” Doing this serves two purposes: (1) acknowledging your receipt of the Accusation and (2) providing notice of your intent to defend yourself against the allegations. Typically, the Notice of Defense form is included with the Accusation packet you will receive from the Attorney General’s office.
You can use the Notice of Defense to request a hearing, object to the Accusation, and/or present new information. You may state that the Accusation may be incorrect, or that the investigation omitted information, or that it doesn’t have substance. Additionally, you can present new information that may not have been included in the Accusation to help your defense. The notice should be mailed to the Discipline Coordination Unit, 2005 Evergreen Street, Suite 1200, Sacramento, CA 95815-3831.
If you have not already contacted a healthcare licensing defense lawyer, you should do so as soon as possible after receiving a Notice of Accusation. These matters are complex, governed by the Rules of Administrative Procedures. An experienced attorney can advocate for you in several important ways, including:
In this way, your lawyer can help you achieve the best possible outcome for your case. With so much at stake, it is vital to retain legal counsel immediately after learning of a complaint against you or after receiving a Notice of Accusation. Early intervention by a knowledgeable California Medical License Defense Attorney can make the difference between having the complaint resolved with minimal penalties, being put on probation, or having your license suspended or revoked.
Once you’ve responded to the Accusation, you will be scheduled for a hearing. Hearings are deemed public, and the information discussed during your hearing could be disclosed to the public. There are exceptions to what is available to the public like warning letters, professional competency examinations, and continuing education activities. or other matters made confidential or privileged by existing law,
The hearing is an administrative proceeding that is presided over by an Administrative Law Judge and is formatted much like a court trial. The Judge will propose a decision after they have heard all of the facts and arguments, and the decision is reviewed by a panel of the Boar. The panel can adopt, modify, or reject the proposed decision and they ultimately will make the final decision on the appropriate disciplinary action.
By filing the Notice of Defense, you preserve your right to be heard and defend yourself against the following disciplinary action:
While a public reprimand may stay on your record, it typically does not include any type of practice restriction. Public reprimands address minor violations and are generally considered to be a lesser form of discipline.
As a physician, you have dedicated your career to helping people who need your skill and expertise. Learning that you may lose your ability to practice medicine can be heartbreaking, and provoke significant anxiety. While an Accusation by the Medical Board is incredibly serious, you may be able to resolve the matter in a more favorable manner by working with a compassionate, knowledgeable lawyer.
At the Law Office of Nicole Irmer, our medical license defense lawyers are dedicated to helping medical professionals who are facing complaints and Accusations. From the initial request for an interview through the final resolution of your case, we will stand by your side. For a confidential, no-risk discussion of your legal options, we encourage you to contact us right away at (619) 237-6310 or email us at any time.