Generally, patients can pursue two types of claims against a healthcare provider. The first type of claim is a civil lawsuit which seeks damages arising from injuries caused by negligence. The second type of claim is an administrative complaint which is a formal complaint against the healthcare provider’s license. A successful outcome to an administrative complaint is the enforcement of disciplinary action against the healthcare provider by the appropriate state agency. To pursue a civil lawsuit, it is highly advisable that a patient retain an attorney because the process is complex and potentially very costly. In contrast, an administrative complaint is a relatively simple process filed through Florida’s Department of Health and an attorney is not necessary. If the Department of Health accepts and agrees with the patient’s complaint, the Department will assign a prosecutor to pursue sanctions against the healthcare provider. The type of sanctions varies widely and may include fines, license suspension or revocation, additional or remedial training, and, in some cases, restitution.
Frequently, a patient may be the victim of a negligent act by a healthcare provider, but, for any number of reasons, a civil lawsuit may not be viable. For example, a civil lawsuit may not be a viable option wherein a dentist delivers a poorly constructed or ill-fitting bridge. Since the expense of a civil lawsuit would cost more than buying a new bridge, no attorney is going to pursue the claim as a civil lawsuit. However, it may be in the interest of the patient to file an administrative complaint seeking a refund for the cost of the bridge. Also, pursuing an administrative complaint may help prevent the medical error happening to somebody else in the future.
A patient can file an administrative complaint by going to the Florida Health Complaint Portal, which is found at www.FLHealthComplaint.gov. Alternatively, you can print out a copy of the complaint form here:
It is strongly recommended that anyone contemplating an administrative complaint have a copy of the pertinent healthcare records available at the time the administrative complaint is prepared. Also, a copy of the pertinent records should be enclosed when the administrative complaint is submitted to the Florida Department of Health. If you need help requesting your healthcare records from the healthcare provider, please review the MEDICAL RECORDS section of our website. It is there that you can download our packet for requesting healthcare records.
It is important to understand that an administrative complaint is processed through the Florida Department of Health. In the case of complaints against a dental provider, the complaint will be reviewed by the Florida Board of Dentistry. If the Board finds “probable cause” for the complaint, the Department of Health shall initiate a public prosecution against the license of the dental provider. However, should the board fail to find “probable cause,” the Department of Health will close the file and the subject of the complaint shall remain confidential. Upon a finding of probable cause, the Department of Health shall assign a state funded prosecutor to pursue the claim. The prosecutor shall have discretion over the direction of the claim and has the authority to enter into settlement agreements with the dentist/healthcare provider. Typically, the prosecutor will consult with the victim before entering into any settlement agreement with the healthcare provider, and any settlement agreement must be approved by the Florida Board of Dentistry. Finally, should the prosecutor and healthcare provider be unable to reach an agreement, there shall be an administrative hearing presided over by an administrative law judge.
The fact that a healthcare provider has been the subject of a formal Administrative Complaint shall be matter of public record, and can be checked on the Florida Department of Health’s website:
FLORIDA DENTAL ASSOCIATIONS & SOCIETIES
In addition to the Florida Department of Health, many counties and/or regions of Florida have separate dental associations and societies. These organizations are typically member funded, and most are affiliated with the American Dental Association. If you have a claim against a dentist who is a member of a local dental association/society, most of the associations and/or societies have a peer review process available to resolve patient-dentist disputes. Typically, the peer review process is reserved for financial and customer service disputes which do not involve personal injuries. Also, any claim that has been pursued as a civil lawsuit, or filed as an administrative complaint, is typically disqualified from the peer review process. If a patient agrees to pursue a peer review procedure, he/she will be asked to sign a document waiving his/her right to pursue an administrative complaint and/or formal litigation. While peer review may involve a waiver of certain rights, it may be a good and viable process for smaller claims. We strongly advise against submitting a claim to peer review if the patient has suffered physical injury as a consequence of the dental care. Below is the contact information for county and regional dental associations/societies in Florida.
Alachua County Dental Association | 352-591-0168 | http://www.alachuacountydental.org/
Brevard County Dental Association | 407-895-9712 | https://www.mybcds.org/
Broward County Dental Association | 954-772-5461 | https://browarddental.org/
Central Florida District Dental Association | 407-898-3486 | https://www.cfdda.org/
Central Palm Beach County Dental Assoc. | 561-655-6070 | https://www.cpbcda.org/
Clay County Dental Society | https://www.claycountydental.org/
Collier County Dental Association | 239-935-8277 | http://www.collierdentists.com/
Hernando County Dental Society | 352-587-2811 | http://hernandocountysmiles.org/index.html
Jacksonville Dental Society | 904-513-8234 | http://jaxdentalsociety.com/
Lake County Dental Society | 847-599-8533 | http://www.lakecountydentalsociety.com/
Lee County Dental Society | 239-936-924 | http://leecountydental.com/index.html
Leon County Dental Association | http://www.leoncountydental.com/
Manatee Dental Society | 941-677-8194 | https://www.manateedentalsociety.org/
Marion County Dental Association | http://marioncountydental.org/
Northeast District Dental Association | https://www.nedda.org/
Northwest District Dental Association | 850-391-9310 | http://nwdda.org/?i=1
Orange County Dental Association | 714-634-8944 | https://www.ocds.org/home
South Florida District Dental Association | https://www.sfdda.org/
South Palm Beach County Dental Assoc. | http://spbcdental.org/
Treasure Coast Dental Society | http://tcdentalsociety.org/
Volusia-Flagler County Dental Association | https://volusiaflaglerdental.org/
West Coast District Dental Association | https://www.wcdental.org/
West Pasco Dental Association | http://thewpda.com/index.html