5 Ways To Hold Careless Doctors Accountable

Vince Kartelo


Do not rely on your doctor’s medical records. It is common sense that careless doctors typically take unreliable notes about your case.

We have even had cases of doctors deliberately changing their records to cover up their negligence.

Don't have your complaint discounted because your doctor could take accurate notes!

Did you know that when you make a complaint, you will be dealing with the doctor's professional indemnity insurer (and their legal team), not the doctor or hospital itself?

While that may be a disappointment, there could be a silver lining.

Insurers and lawyers are predictable. We know that.  We are lawyers.  Without fail insurers and their legal team will try to discount you as a witness.

But it doesn’t have to be all bad news. Taking some simple steps to collect evidence, particularly in the first few weeks of treatment can help prove your credibility and ensure your complaint is taken seriously.

Write it down...in case they don't.

Notes can be critical two or six or ten months later when you are making a complaint or thinking about a claim.

Having notes to remind you of...

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    all of the details of what happened, and
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    what you went through...

...is far easier and more accurate than relying on your memory. 

Start by making a word doc or writing in a journal.

Alternatively, use Google Docs, so you have access to your notes wherever you are.

There are 5 types of notes you need to start making ASAP.

1. Have you suffered at the hands of an incompetent doctor?

As soon after you start thinking your doctor

  1. isn’t taking you seriously, 
  2. isn’t paying attention to you or
  3. you believe is acting negligently, 

write down all the details of your treatment.

Do not skip small details. Write it all down. You don't know how valuable the minor details could be later down the track. 

Take notes of things including:

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    The date and time of each appointment or consultation
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    Where the treatment took place
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    Who was there (your doctor's name)
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    Any witnesses that attended (including your friends, family or other medical staff)
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    What was spoken about
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    What medication was prescribed (if any)
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    What tests were performed or scheduled (blood, scans etc.)

Write everything down. These notes will help jog your memory so you have credibility when it really counts.

2. Are you now a physical and emotional wreck?

This section of your notes is where you write about how you feel about the treatment and what impact it has had on your life.

For at least the first month or two make notes daily on areas such as:

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    The severity of symptoms (i.e. whether the inflammation has reduced or  you fatigue gotten better) 
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    Anxiety surrounding your treatment
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    Any other problems you face.

These notes don't need to be complicated. You could create a table of your symptoms and rank the severity out of ten.

Or download a Symptom Tracker App, like this one.

Take photographs where you can. 

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words…and then some. Photos are useful because they…

…preserve evidence of the effects of your treatment such as worsening symptoms

…show the damage better than you can describe them

…are difficult to contradict. A doctor (or more likely the insurance company defending your complaint) will find it harder to deny the evidence in a photograph.

Photographs are hard to deny. They are a great weapon to have in your arsenal. Use them as much as possible.

3. has it drained your bank account?

The effects of poor medical treatment is far-reaching. It doesn't simply stop at your direct symptoms. 

Proving a claim against your careless doctor needs to account for all of the negative impacts!

This can be the most important part of a claim. 

Vince Kartelo


At a later stage, you may be entitled to compensation for economic and other losses.

You should know that most claims for compensation rely solely on the first two points in the list below. You will need to prove either you

...couldn't go to work,

...lost your job or

...missed job opportunities. 

Begin making notes immediately after a poor treatment or as soon as you suspect negligent actions about anything you have lost because of the treatment and its effects.

This could be missed:

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    work hours
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    job opportunities
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    family or social gatherings
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    or anything else that would have benefited your or that you would have enjoyed but were unable to do because of the treatment (or lack thereof

The things you miss out on in life can be just as important as your symptoms in a claim as they prove how the treatment is impacting on your life. Don't skip this step. 

4. why you need willing Whistle-blowers.

Having a medical ally on your side is powerful. 

A medical professional willing to speak out against your despicable doctor is a surefire way to get your complaint or claim taken seriously. 

It may seem like a difficult task. But the payout is worth it.

Start taking notes about conversations (telephone, in person or emails) that you have witnesses and other medical personnel (such as other doctors, nurses or admin staff).

Make written notes of the:

  • date
  • time
  • people involved 
  • contents of the discussion

... of every conversation you have about your treatment or complaint. 

Simple notes on the conversations, particularly with other medical professionals are a pivotal part of proving your doctor is negligent.

5. How to avoid taking a knife to a gunfight

This last point is less about note-taking and more about taking an extra action that covers all your bases so no insurance company (or their lawyers) can discount you as a liar.

In the course of your treatment or complaint, you will likely be told or promised something or given some information that you want to make sure isn’t denied at a later date.

…such as…

…the risks and outcomes of treatment or

…results of tests or

…when you expect to hear the result of your complaint.

Immediately after the conversation, send a letter confirming what the person told you.

The letter does not have to be elaborate, just a brief restatement of what was said.

Make a copy for your files before sending it on.

A sample email or letter can be shown below.

Avoid the he-said, she-said spiral by confirming things in writing. It will make the complaints process far easier.


Dear Mr Smith,

This email is to confirm our telephone discussion on January 2, 20xx in which you informed me that you would advise me of the outcome of my complaint against Dr Snow by no later than January 15, 20xx. 

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Kind regards,

Julie Kim

Stay strong.

The complaints process can be a battle of determination. But with these notes, you will be holding all the cards.