You have completed your education and earned your professional license to work as a chiropractor in Texas. However, a complaint against you can potentially threaten your career. You have too much at stake to try and handle a complaint and potential disciplinary action on your own. Instead, call an experienced chiropractor license defense lawyer to assist you in protecting your rights, your license, and your reputation. By getting legal representation, you can also better understand the types of sanctions you may face in disciplinary proceedings before the Texas Board of Chiropractic Examiners (TBCE).
Understanding the TBCE Complaint Process
TBCE not only licenses and regulates chiropractors but also receives and processes all complaints about chiropractors. Under Tex. Admin. Code §80.2, when the TBCE receives a complaint, it sends a receipt to the complainant. TBCE staff then review the allegations in the complaint to see if it contains enough evidence to justify an investigation into a potential violation.
If TBCE staff finds insufficient evidence, they will close the complaint and advise the complainant of its closure within 30 days.
On the other hand, if TBCE staff finds sufficient evidence to investigate a potential violation further, it will notify the chiropractor and request a response. TBCE must prioritize complaints involving allegations of criminal activities or serious physical or economic harm to patients.
After TBCE receives a response from the chiropractor and completes the investigation, staff presents the evidence to the Enforcement Committee, which can take any of the three possible actions:
- Find no violation occurred and dismiss the complaint;
- Order additional investigation; or
- Find that a violation occurred.
If TBCE finds that a chiropractor has committed a violation, staff will notify them in writing within 14 days. The notice will include the following:
- The specific statutes or rules that were violated;
- A description of the facts and evidence supporting the finding of a violation;
- The maximum penalty under the law the licensee may be subject to;
- How the licensee can request an administrative hearing to contest the alleged violation; and
- The process for informally settling the complaint without an administrative hearing, including an informal conference if the committee requests one.
The chiropractor has 20 days from receipt of notice of the violation to respond. 22 Tex. Admin. Code §80.1(h) provides that any chiropractor who fails to respond to a complaint or request from TBCE is subject to additional disciplinary action.
Under 22 Tex. Admin. Code §80.11, the TBCE may invite the chiropractor to attend an informal conference to resolve the notice of violation. If the chiropractor fails to respond or declines to attend the informal conference, the TBCE will pursue formal disciplinary proceedings.
At an informal conference, the complainant, one or more members of the Enforcement Committee, and a TBCE staff attorney may attend. After the informal conference, TBCE may dismiss the complaint, further investigate the complaint, modify the original notice of violation, or pursue formal disciplinary proceedings.
If the chiropractor chooses not to attend or doesn’t respond to the informal conference, or if the parties cannot resolve the notice of violation by agreement after an informal conference, TBCE will seek a formal resolution. First, TBCE will refer the case for an administrative hearing held at the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH). SOAH will appoint an administrative law judge (ALJ) to hear the case. Following an administrative hearing, at which both parties present evidence, the ALJ will issue a proposed order for TBCE review. TBCE issues any final orders of discipline.
Grounds for Disciplinary Action
Various activities can lead to disciplinary action against chiropractors. For example, 22 Tex. Admin. Code § 79.1 addresses inappropriate sexual conduct, including:
- consensual sexual relationships between doctors and patients;
- inappropriate sexual touching;
- improperly discussing sexual history and preferences;
- making offensive sexual statements;
- requesting sexual acts or favors in exchange for services; and
- indecent exposure.
Under 22 Tex. Admin. Code § 79.2, TBCE can take disciplinary action against chiropractors based on a lack of diligence, such as performing or attempting to perform procedures for which the licensee is untrained or delegating responsibilities to an untrained individual. Other examples of a lack of diligence include physically harming or allowing physical harm to an individual, abandoning a patient without reasonable cause and adequate notice, and exposing an individual to unsafe or unsanitary conditions.
22 Tex. Admin. Code § 79.3 covers financial misconduct. This violation occurs when a chiropractor commits fraud in the charging or billing for goods or services. Financial misconduct also may occur when a chiropractor excessively bills or charges for goods or services or submits claims for goods or services they do not sell or render.
Unprofessional conduct that may lead to disciplinary action against chiropractors also can result from being impaired under 22 Tex. Admin. Code §79.4. A chiropractor may be impaired under this section if they cannot practice chiropractic with reasonable skill and safety because of substance abuse or any mental or physical condition. Impairment may cause the TBCE to require that the chiropractor undergo a physical or mental exam under this section.
TBCE may assess various sanctions against a chiropractor during disciplinary proceedings under 22 Tex. Admin. Code § 80.3(c). Potential sanctions include the following:
- Revocation of license
- Suspension of license
- Suspension with probation
- Written formal reprimand
- Administrative penalty
- Repeat taking of the jurisprudence exam
- Additional continuing education
The TBCE also may require a chiropractor to complete additional terms and conditions, such as:
- completing specific types of continuing education;
- passing certain examinations;
- restricting the type of treatment, treatment procedures, or class of patients to be treated;
- restricting the supervision of others; and
- undergoing a psychological or medical evaluation and following any recommended treatment.
Count on Bertolino LLP, to Defend Your Chiropractor License from Disciplinary Action
When a complaint threatens your ability to earn a living, you need a seasoned chiropractor license defense attorney. We will defend you against these attacks on the credentials you have worked so hard to earn. Get in touch with the lawyers of Bertolino LLP today by calling (512) 515-9518 or visiting us online.