There are a few things every medical professional dreads — a Medicare audit, a malpractice accusation, a qui tam lawsuit, an IRS tax dispute… the list goes on.
One of the most serious events in the course of a healthcare provider’s career is the issuance of an administrative complaint by the state’s Board of Medicine.
An administrative complaint is a formal document notifying you that you may have violated the public health code, the legal standard of care, the code of medical ethics, or some other provision of state or federal law relevant to your medical license.
The state can file an administrative complaint against any healthcare professional on behalf of that person’s respective licensing board — to a nurse on behalf of the Board of Nursing, for example, or to a pharmacist on behalf of the Board of Pharmacy.
In any case, the care provider named in the administrative complaint should take the matter extremely seriously, moving urgently into a strategic defensive posture so as to save their professional license, their reputation, and their career.
Our office can help. Oberheiden, P.C. is a state and federal healthcare defense firm representing doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other medical care professionals across the nation, as experienced, qualified and dedicated administrative hearing lawyers.
We know how frightening it can be to open the mail and find notice of an administrative complaint inside. But we also know that the complaint is only the beginning of the story. And in the overwhelming majority of the cases we’ve handled, the end has looked entirely different.
Our veteran team of medical license defense attorneys has helped many doctors and care providers just like you as they stared down an administrative complaint and emerged victorious.
Most of our clients have kept their licenses and are still practicing in good standing today. While no one can promise a specific outcome, by leveraging our substantial experience and negotiation skills, we are often able to make a determinative difference in our clients’ cases.
Don’t give up hope, and don’t make mistakes by acting on your own. Contact one of our medical license law defense lawyers by calling Oberheiden, P.C. right away.
Put our highly experienced team on your side
Dr. Nick Oberheiden
John W. Sellers
Former Senior Trial Attorney U.S. Department of Justice
Steps to Take After Receiving an Administrative Complaint
Are you a medical professional who has recently received an administrative complaint from your state medical licensing board? The steps you take in the days ahead are extremely important.
Remain calm but determined. Your attitude and state of mind throughout this process matters. Unfortunately, doctors sometimes rush into a panicked response. Others don’t take action at all, delaying their response or shrugging off the whole thing (especially common in situations where the complaint seems like a “clearly baseless” grievance from a petty patient). Never assume that the situation is minor or self-explanatory. Instead, make the decision that the administrative hearing process is now your top priority and you will take whatever steps necessary to protect your license and overcome the complaint.
Contact a medical license law defense attorney. An experienced lawyer can help you file a strategic response to the administrative complaint. It is important that you comply with every requirement without divulging more information than necessary. Your statements can and will be used against you. Stating the wrong thing (or simply saying too much) has the potential to significantly impair your chances of an optimal outcome. Let your attorney advise you as to the wisest possible response.
File your response within the stated time limit. You have a duty to file a timely response. If you fail to respond on time, you could waive your right to a hearing. The medical board could simply suspend or revoke your medical license without even learning your side of the story.
Request a medical board hearing. You have a right to a hearing, but the state won’t necessarily schedule one unless you make a formal request. A hearing is your best chance to effectively defend yourself against the allegations that have been presented to the board. Learn more about your right to a hearing and the different options available to you in the next two sections.
Know Your Rights: Administrative Complaints and Due Process Under the Law
The United States Constitution requires that, before the government can deprive you of a property or liberty interest, it must provide you:
Notice of the allegations against you and the potential consequences
An opportunity to be heard (that is, to defend yourself)
You are entitled to both these things. Together, they constitute your right to due process.
Because your medical license is considered a property interest, any action that might result in losing that license will trigger your right to due process.
So, when the state licensing board issues an administrative complaint, the government is fulfilling the first of these two requirements: notice of the allegations and the impending actions against you.
In other words, the state has already taken its first major step toward revoking your medical license. That’s why a careful response is so critical — and why physicians are wise to treat this situation with cautious urgency.
The administrative complaint hearing constitutes your right to be heard. If you fail to request a hearing, you are essentially waiving your right to due process. Please do not make it any easier for the government to take away something you’ve worked so hard for. Request a hearing, preferably under the guidance of experienced medical license law defense attorneys.
How to Choose the Right Administrative Complaint Hearing for Your Situation
Administrative complaint hearings generally take one of two forms:
Informal hearings (adjudicated by the relevant medical board)
Formal hearings (adjudicated by an impartial Administrative Law Judge)
When Should You Choose an Informal Hearing?
During an informal hearing, the medical board will consider the nature of the alleged infraction, the relevant professional or legal standard, and any mitigating circumstances. The board generally will not, however, endeavor to determine the underlying facts of the case.
For this reason, an informal hearing is usually appropriate only in situations where you do not dispute the facts of the matter.
Of course, in most cases, it will be in your best interest to dispute the facts alleged. So you should not agree to an informal hearing unless an attorney advises otherwise.
In some cases, physicians will opt for an informal hearing if they have reached a settlement agreement with the medical board. In other cases, your attorneys might recommend an informal hearing if it is likely they can negotiate reduced sanctions or a complete dismissal. But these are strategies that should be considered only under the close counsel of an experienced medical license law defense attorney.
When Should You Choose a Formal Hearing?
Formal administrative hearings proceed much like a regular trial. Both sides will be allowed to call witnesses and produce evidence. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) will listen to the arguments on both sides and then make a recommendation to the medical board.
Unlike an informal hearing, formal administrative hearings give you the opportunity to fully and vigorously dispute the facts of the matter. And because you have the right to legal counsel, you can take the burden off your own shoulders by allowing an experienced litigator to advocate for your best interests throughout the proceeding.
Your attorney can also help you file an appeal in district court if both the ALJ and the medical board rule against you.
For these reasons, a formal hearing is almost always the most sensible choice for medical license disputes, especially if reasonable negotiations have not resolved the matter.
What Kinds of Legal Issues Usually Lead to Administrative Complaints and Hearings?
Most administrative hearings begin because someone you work with — a supervisor, an employee, a colleague, or a patient — files a complaint or concern with the state.
In other cases, it might be an inspection, investigation, audit, or drug test that triggers state intervention. There might even be evidence against you: medical records, billing records, eyewitness testimony, etc.
Concerns commonly leading to an administrative complaint include:
Failing a drug test
Faking a drug test (i.e. using someone else’s blood or urine)
Substance abuse or addiction concerns
Showing up to work while apparently drunk or high
DUI / DWI
Medical malpractice / breaching the standard of care
Strange or unstable social behavior in the workplace
Criminal investigations or prosecutions
Inappropriate contact or relationships with patients
But often, these accusations aren’t quite what they seem. It isn’t uncommon, for example, for the government to build a case on the basis of so-called drug diversion over something as simple as a misplaced prescription pad.
Even if you made a mistake, no one should have to pay for a single, simple error with their careers. Too often, the government rushes toward the harshest possible penalties.
An experienced medical license law defense lawyer at Oberheiden, P.C. can help you fight back against trumped-up allegations, negotiate for the fairest possible terms, and turn over every stone to arrive at our goal— the best possible outcome.
Am I Still Likely to Lose My Medical License if I Request a Hearing?
The outcome of your hearing will depend in large part of the facts and circumstances surrounding your administrative complaint. It is impossible to predict exact outcomes in advance, and there is never a guarantee of success.
However, by electing for a formal administrative hearing and hiring an experienced healthcare defense team to represent you at every turn, you are doing everything in your power to retain your medical license and clear your good name.
How Can an Administrative complaints Lawyer Help?
Most medical professionals are honest, upstanding, hardworking, and successful people who are widely regarded as pillars of society. The notion that they are routinely endangering the public or committing felonies is one that state and federal investigators have propagated through the media but one that is often a distortion of fact.
We’re here to set the record straight. It has been our experience that physicians and care providers who hire the right team of lawyers can see a significant difference in the way their cases play out.
Our mission is to shoulder your legal burden entirely. We handle every aspect of your case, from the initial response to the negotiations with the state. Our team will even handle any public relations or media matters pertaining to your case.
At Oberheiden, P.C., we fight in every case to:
Get charges dropped
Bring investigations to an end
Keep all medical licenses active (including for professionals with licenses in multiple states)
Salvage sterling reputations
Provide a shoulder of support
Avoid criminal conviction and prison sentences
Achieve minimal to no sanctions or penalties whenever possible
Who Do You Represent in Licensing Hearings?
Our defense team is experienced in representing a wide variety of medical care providers in a range of healthcare licensing matters, including (but not limited to):
Schedule a Free Legal Defense Consultation with Oberheiden, P.C.
The outcome of your administrative complaint may depend on the decisions you make today. So be proactive in your defense. Hire a passionate legal team that can put its years of experience on your side. Please call or contact our office to set up a free consultation right away.
This information has been prepared for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. This information may constitute attorney advertising in some jurisdictions. Reading of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship. Prior results cannot guarantee a similar future outcome in your case. Oberheiden, P.C. is a Texas PC with headquarters in Dallas. The attorney on record limits his practice to federal law.
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