Defending Your Medical License in New Jersey: What Every Doctor Needs to Know
Getting a medical license in New Jersey requires years of education, training, exams, background checks, and more. But keeping that license can sometimes be the real challenge. Medical professionals in New Jersey are held to very high standards of care and ethics by the state medical board. Even a single complaint against your license can trigger an investigation and potentially lead to disciplinary action if the board finds enough evidence to support the allegations.
Losing your medical license means losing your livelihood and the ability to practice medicine. So if you receive notice of a complaint against your license, it’s critical to take it seriously and get experienced legal help right away. Keep reading to learn more about the medical license disciplinary process in New Jersey and why having a knowledgeable lawyer on your side can make all the difference in protecting your career.
How the New Jersey Medical Board Investigates Complaints
In New Jersey, the State Board of Medical Examiners is responsible for licensing and regulating medical doctors. The Board takes complaints about license holders very seriously, viewing its role as protecting the public, not shielding doctors from consequences.
When a complaint is filed by a patient, colleague, or other party, it first goes to the Medical Practitioner Review Panel. This panel reviews the allegations and investigates their validity. They may gather additional evidence by interviewing the complainant, requesting medical records, or seeking an expert opinion.
Based on their investigation, the Review Panel will make a recommendation to the Board of Medical Examiners on how to proceed. Their recommendation may be to:
- Dismiss the complaint entirely
- Defer action pending the outcome of related litigation
- Send the doctor a letter of reprimand
- Require the doctor to undergo counseling, treatment, or remedial education
- Suspend the doctor’s license temporarily
- Revoke the doctor’s license permanently
The Board of Medical Examiners then reviews the recommendation and makes the final decision on whether/how to discipline the doctor. They have the authority to affirm, reject, or modify the Review Panel’s proposed action.
Common Reasons Doctors Get Disciplined in New Jersey
Medical professionals can face disciplinary action for a wide variety of alleged misconduct. Some of the most common complaints that lead to license suspension or revocation include:
- Negligence – Making medical errors or providing substandard care that harms patients. This includes failing to diagnose conditions, surgical mistakes, medication errors, etc.
- Inappropriate relationships – Engaging in sexual, business, or other improper relationships with patients.
- Substance abuse – Practicing medicine while impaired due to alcohol, illegal drugs, or prescription drug abuse.
- Insurance/billing fraud – Overbilling, double billing, upcoding, billing for services not performed, etc.
- Criminal convictions – Licensees are required to report any criminal charges or convictions to the Board. Certain types of crimes may be grounds for discipline.
- Failure to complete CME – Doctors must complete a certain number of continuing medical education credits each year to maintain their license.
- Practicing outside scope – Providing medical services the doctor is not qualified or licensed to perform.
- Poor recordkeeping – Incomplete or inaccurate medical records.
- Misprescribing – Overprescribing opioids and other controlled substances.
Even one complaint can trigger a lengthy investigation and lead to serious consequences if the Board feels disciplinary action is warranted to protect the public.
Why Hiring a Lawyer is Critical to Defend Your Medical License
Doctors often make the mistake of trying to represent themselves in front of the medical board because they don’t realize how high the stakes are. They think they can just explain their side of the story and the matter will be cleared up.
In reality, the medical board and Review Panel are focused on protecting patients, not protecting your career. Even if an allegation seems frivolous or exaggerated, they have to take it seriously. They can suspend or revoke a license based on a relatively low burden of proof if they feel it’s in the public’s interest.
Having an experienced lawyer makes a huge difference by evening the playing field. An attorney who routinely handles medical license defense cases understands how the New Jersey disciplinary process works and how to effectively argue your case. A knowledgeable lawyer can:
- Act as your representative in all interactions with the Board so statements can’t be misconstrued.
- Review the allegations against you and develop a strategic defense.
- Gather exculpatory evidence and interview witnesses.
- Draft a persuasive response to the complaint that casts doubt on the allegations.
- Negotiate with the Review Panel for lesser disciplinary action.
- Prepare experts to testify on your behalf.
- Appeal any adverse decisions to a higher court.
In many cases, a lawyer can get a complaint dismissed or resolved with just a reprimand or counseling. In more serious cases, they may negotiate a probation or temporary license suspension instead of permanent revocation. This can save doctors’ careers.
Finding the Right Lawyer for Your New Jersey Medical License Defense
Not all lawyers have experience specifically with New Jersey medical licensing cases. It’s important to do your research to find one who regularly handles professional license defense cases before the NJ Board of Medical Examiners.
Look for a lawyer who:
- Focuses on professional license defense or administrative law.
- Has represented healthcare providers before the NJ medical board.
- Understands the entire disciplinary process and players involved.
- Has a track record of successful outcomes in past cases.
- Makes you feel comfortable and responds promptly to questions.
- Clearly explains their approach for defending you.
Also be sure to ask about their fees and billing structure. Some lawyers charge flat fees while others bill by the hour. Get fee estimates in writing so there are no surprises.
Defending your medical license is critical, so this is not the time to base your decision solely on finding the cheapest lawyer. But a lawyer charging extremely high fees doesn’t necessarily equate to better representation either. Find one who offers a fair rate for their experience level in similar cases.
What to Do if You Receive a Licensing Complaint in New Jersey
Here are some steps doctors should take if they find themselves facing a medical board complaint in New Jersey:
- Do not ignore it – Failure to respond may be treated as an admission of guilt.
- Notify your employer – They need to know about any complaint that could impact your ability to work.
- Get legal help immediately – This improves your chances of getting the complaint dismissed quickly.
- Gather evidence – Any documentation that refutes the allegations will help your lawyer.
- Cooperate fully with your attorney and follow their advice – They know how to best position your defense.
- Avoid social media posts about your case – These can be used against you.
- Be patient – The disciplinary process often takes many months to resolve.
Your medical license is your livelihood as a doctor. Being accused of wrongdoing can feel terrifying, but experienced legal counsel levels the playing field and protects your interests every step of the way. Don’t leave your career to chance. Contact a knowledgeable New Jersey medical license defense attorney for help.