How to Handle a Complaint Filed Against Your Practice

January 31, 2023
The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford

Receiving notice of a complaint from your licensing board can be a difficult moment. For most licensed professionals, it is also uncharted territory – they have never had a complaint filed against them, and so they find themselves unsure as to what to do. Whether you are a dentist, a social worker, or some other licensed professional, a professional license defense attorney can guide you through the process. 

Take the Complaint Seriously

Many licensed professionals immediately assume that the complaint will be easily resolved with a couple of emails or a phone call. Even in comparatively minor cases, this is rarely the case. Once the complaint is filed, it triggers a disciplinary process that starts with an investigation. While the Board may ultimately decide that the complaint is baseless, you must comply with the process until that decision is made. When it comes to complaints that could harm your license, prepare to be scrutinized by your licensing board and take the steps necessary to protect your license and your reputation.  

Remain Calm and Collected

Receiving notice of an ethical complaint can give rise to a mixture of anger, anxiety, frustration, and hopelessness. It is important to keep your bearings and not allow yourself to get overwhelmed. You still need to manage your practice while the complaint process plays itself out, so it is vital that you do not make any decisions that further jeopardize your license. 

Be Proactive

Perhaps more importantly, do not allow yourself to become paralyzed. You need to take immediate action as soon as you receive notice that a complaint has been filed against you. Even if you believe the complaint to be completely baseless, do not assume that it will simply go away. You need to get out in front of it. As a result, we recommend that you take the following steps immediately: 

  • Review the complaint carefully. It will give you a brief outline of the violation that occurred and the underlying facts. The complaint may also outline important rights and obligations – you may be required to respond to the complaint by a certain date or you lose your rights. 
  • Inform your partners. Whether the complaint names only you or your practice, you need to inform other owners of the practice of the complaint that has been filed. This gives them the opportunity to take the steps necessary to protect themselves and the practice. 
  • Inform your insurance carrier(s). Most insurance carriers require immediate notification of any potential claims and will withhold coverage if you did not provide timely notice. As a result, you want to notify your D&O, malpractice, and any other insurance carriers that you think may provide coverage should you need it.
  • Begin an internal investigation. Whether the complaint involves only you or others in your practice, you need to begin getting a handle on the issue. You need to interview the people in your practice who were involved, gather any pertinent documentation, and begin building a record to protect yourself or minimize the potential damage.

Once you have been served with notice of the complaint, the clock is ticking. By taking immediate action, you avoid losing the valuable time that you will need to build your defense.

Contact a Professional License Defense Attorney

The biggest mistake that many licensed professionals make is by trying to handle the complaint on their own. The disciplinary process can be complex and incredibly time-consuming, even if the complaint is without merit. Failing to meet a deadline or saying the wrong thing to an investigator can make your situation worse. Trying to manage the process while running a busy practice can quickly become unsustainable. A professional license defense attorney can help in the following ways: 

  • By handling the correspondence with your licensing board
  • By assisting you with the investigation
  • By helping you understand your options and the potential outcomes of your case
  • By negotiating a potential resolution of the complaint with your board
  • By representing you at any hearings

In short, a lawyer can guide you through the process from start to finish, allowing you to focus on your daily practice. More importantly, they can help you reach the best possible outcome, minimizing any damage to your career. 

Facing a Complaint? Contact Professional License Defense Attorney J.W. Stafford

J.W. Stafford has deep experience in helping licensed professionals protect their licenses and their reputations when facing a complaint. If you have received notice of a complaint, we can help you reach a fair outcome. Contact us today by calling 410-514-6099 to schedule an appointment to discuss your case.