Can I sue someone for impersonating a doctor?

Question

I was hurt after I went to a "healer" who made my condition worse. I think he was masquerading as a doctor. Will that fact alone entitle me to some money damages?

Answer

Only licensed doctors may provide medical services; "healers" are not licensed. In all states, it's a crime to provide medical services without being licensed. If you’ve been injured by someone who provided medical treatment without a state license, you may be entitled to receive money.

As a citizen you do not have the ability to charge someone with a crime yourself. That power is left to the local prosecutors in your area. You do, however, have the ability to contact the local police or state medical board to inform them about your situation and your suspicions that someone has committed the crime. After that, it is up to the investigators to determine if a crime has taken place and up to the prosecutors to file criminal charges against the healer.

If you suspect criminal activity it’s best to report that suspicion to the local police either directly, through an anonymous criminal tips hotline, or, if you believe it is an emergency, by calling 911.

Criminal Damages

If your healer is charged with and convicted of a crime, part of the criminal sentence may require the healer to pay restitution to anyone who suffered damages because of his or her actions. So, if you required additional medical treatment or incurred expenses because of the criminal activity, the court will likely order the healer to pay restitution to compensate you for those expenses.

Civil Damages

In addition to the possibility of restitution payments made as part of a criminal sentence, you may be able to sue the healer in a civil lawsuit.

A civil lawsuit is very different than the criminal justice process. In a civil lawsuit you can accuse someone who has harmed you of acting in a way contrary to the law, or in a way that the law allows for compensation. This means that if the healer’s activity resulted in you experiencing damages, pain, or suffering, you can sue the healer for money to compensate you for your loss.

Unlike the criminal justice process, a lawsuit does not accuse the healer of committing a crime, but instead accuses him or her of acting improperly and causing you harm. You do not need to contact prosecutors or police to file a civil lawsuit, but you will need to be able to show that you suffered a harm for which the law provides a remedy.

Also, the level of proof the law requires in a civil case is lower than that required in the criminal case. This means that even if the healer is charged with a crime and is acquitted, you can still sue the healer if you suffered damages. If you win your case you can still be awarded damages.

Talk to a Lawyer

If you have suffered an injury as a result of someone whom you suspect was practicing medicine without a license, you should speak to an attorney right away. While it is always up to prosecutors to determine if someone should be charged with a crime, you may have civil remedies available to you even if the healer is never charged with a crime. An experienced attorney can evaluate your case and give you advice based on your circumstances and how they apply to the law. You should always consult an attorney if you wish to investigate the possibility of filing a civil lawsuit.

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