Physical therapists play an important role in helping patients overcome pain, gain mobility, and improve their overall health after an injury or an accident. Getting a physical therapy license in California takes many years of hard work and financial investment. After investing many years in studying, the payoff will be worth your efforts. Physical therapists in California can earn a pretty good living helping patients regain normalcy after an injury or accident. However, you risk losing your license if a client files a sustained complaint against you or if you make a bad decision on the job or off. The Legal Guardian assists physical therapists in Long Beach who might be on the verge of losing their professional licenses.

When to Contact an Attorney

You should contact an attorney if you are facing a formal investigation or an accusation threatening your professional license. You should not wait too long before contacting an attorney experienced in defending professional licenses. The sooner you involve an attorney, the higher the chances of retaining your license. You should never attempt to face the Physical Therapy Board of California on your own. You need an attorney who understands professional license defense and all of the legal procedures involved. The Physical Therapy Board of California is strict in handling client complaints; it upholds high standards of operations. There is too much at risk to go it alone. An attorney experienced in professional license defense can minimize or, in some cases, defeat repercussions that could affect your career. A single lapse in judgment or a single complaint against you could destroy your reputation and risk your license. You would not want a client’s complaint against you to make your future goals unattainable. An attorney understands that it is easy to make a mistake and also understands that a client could file a false or misleading complaint against you. When a licensed physical therapist is arrested, or when a client files a complaint against you, the Physical Therapy Board of California will initiate an investigation. The rules that control the disciplinary investigations and proceedings are complex and hard to understand. Defendants in administrative actions – also called Respondents –  who do not have a deep understanding of the rules and procedures of disciplinary actions, are at a distinct and avoidable disadvantage in the proceedings brought by the board. Your explanation might not be convincing enough to help you avoid a suspension or revocation of your professional license. If an investigator from the Physical Therapy Board of California has contacted you regarding allegations made against you by a client, it would be wise to contact an attorney BEFORE you talk to the investigator and make statements that can be taken out of context and used against you later. You should also contact an attorney if you have received a formal complaint from the board via mail. No matter the facts of your case, a professional license defense attorney will identify the best legal strategy to follow.

Protecting your Physical Therapy License

Accidents and injuries happen all the time, leaving victims injured or incapacitated. After suffering injuries, some people lose the ability to lead a normal life and perform basic functions. It is common for people to feel hopeless or as if their life is over. However, physical therapists are essential for helping victims of accidents and other injuries resume normal living. Physical therapists undergo intensive training and practical experience before gaining the necessary qualifications to offer physical therapy services. A physical therapist has a thorough understanding of neuroanatomy and biomechanics. Before you even begin your practice, you have to attain high levels of expertise. You must pass a variety of examinations to meet the requirements of becoming a physical therapist. The tough entry requirements make physical therapy a challenging career to join and maintain. It would be detrimental to lose your license and watch your career fall apart after working so hard. Even when you have done your best to offer high quality, professional services, some patients will still complain. Some patients and their loved ones have unrealistically high expectations. For instance, a patient might expect instant recovery after starting physical therapy sessions only to find that is impossible. Other patients might not progress as expected, despite your best efforts. It is also important to understand that even the most experienced and competent physical therapist can make a genuine mistake. You should not lose your professional license for making an honest mistake. Attorneys understand the long journey that physical therapists follow before getting licensing and certification. An experienced professional license defense attorney will have a thorough understanding of the formal proceedings and disciplinary actions that follow a complaint against a physical therapist. Your professional license defense attorney will challenge all the accusations and complaints brought against you and seek the best outcome.

The Physical Therapy Board of California (PTBC)

The PTBC is in charge of overseeing the licensing of physical therapists and assistant physical therapists. The PTBC is part of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. If a physical therapist or assistant physical therapist is accused of unprofessionalism or dishonesty, he/she will be subject to an investigation and disciplinary action by the PTBC. If you receive a notice of an inquiry or investigation by the board, it is important to contact an experienced professional license defense attorney immediately. If you develop a chemical dependency issue, an attorney can help you take part in the Board's diversion program instead of facing a revocation or suspension of your physical therapy license. Deciding to face a board investigation on your own could lead to license denial. If you already have a license, an investigation by the PTBC could result in revocation or suspension of your license.

When the board contacts you regarding an investigation, you may be required to provide certain documents, records, letters, statements, and reports. After reviewing the provided documents and investigating your case, the board might recommend a suspension of your license or other discipline. After you receive a statement of issues or an accusation from PTBC, you must file a response within 15 days or risk forfeiting your right to contest the allegations. Your professional license defense attorney will file a Request for Discovery and Notice of Defense for you, but it is up to you to hire your lawyer within the limited timeline. If the matter cannot be settled, the matter will proceed to an administrative hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), which follows the same basic procedure as a more traditional court hearing. The administrative hearing will usually take place at the closest Office of Administrative Hearings branch. In some cases where the closest branch is too far, an ALJ will be dispatched and the hearing will be held at a location closer to where you live. It is a better idea to hire an attorney who has handled numerous administrative hearings and understands all the legal proceedings. Administrative hearings involve documentary exhibits and evidence, and witness testimony. The rules of evidence are different from criminal court and a lawyer not familiar with the procedures and rules could get disoriented.

After the hearing, the ALJ in your case issues a proposed decision. The proposed decision issued by the judge could be probation, revocation, suspension, an outright dismissal, or something in between. Whatever the decision, it must be based on the evidence and justified in a written opinion. It is essential to understand that the decision is only a proposed decision and the Board can adopt, modify, or reject it altogether, leaving you the option of filing an appeal in superior court if you are dissatisfied with the determination. 

When choosing a physical therapy license attorney, find an attorney who has handled many administrative hearings and can explain what success means for your particular case. Do not shy away from asking your attorney about the administrative hearings that he/she has handled in the past. What was the outcome of the hearings? Did the attorney help the professional licensee retain their licenses?

Also remember that timing is critical. You risk a license revocation if you fail to file a Notice of Defense on time or fail to appear at your administrative hearing. Most people are often not aware of the steps to take after receiving a complaint notice. A professional license defense attorney can guide you on the right steps to take.

Disciplinary Process is Confusing

The PTBC initiates a disciplinary process when a complaint is filed against a licensed physical therapist in California. Several parties may initiate a complaint against a physical therapist. A colleague, patient, or any other party that feels that a physical therapist has committed a violation could file a complaint. If a licensed physical therapist is convicted of a crime, the board may initiate a disciplinary investigation proceeding automatically.

The PTBC mainly handles cases that involve alleged violations of the Physical Therapy Act in California. You could also be subject to an investigation and disciplinary action if you violate the physical therapists’ Professions Code. The PTBC has the authority to issue, suspend/revoke an existing license, license on probation, or take any other necessary disciplinary action. Some of the violations that could lead to disciplinary action by PTBC include:

  • You suffer from an addiction or substance abuse; an addiction or substance use will have detrimental effects if it happens in your professional practice
  • A felony or misdemeanor conviction, especially if the conviction is related to your physical therapy practice – the conviction record is evidence enough
  • Using fraudulent means to obtain physical therapy licensing
  • Committing insurance fraud by charging patients for services not provided
  • Paying or charging for referrals
  • Misleading or false advertising
  • Engaging in conduct that violates professional ethics and guidelines
  • A conviction for driving under the influence even if you committed the offense during non-office hours – the conviction record is evidence enough
  • Providing excessive treatment or over-prescribing
  • Engaging in unlawful sexual conduct with your clients or patients
  • Engaging in sexual harassment or verbal abuse while offering physical therapy services ●Engaging in physical abuse
  • Suffering from a mental or physical inability to continue offering professional physical therapy services
  • Offering misleading nutritional counsel to patients or clients
  • Allowing unqualified or unlicensed staff to work for you
  • Failing to abide by the laid down chemical control procedures
  • Revealing patient’s information by failing to follow confidentiality guidelines
  • Refusing or failing to provide the relevant medical records
  • Maintaining poor client records, altering, or falsifying client information
  • Violating your license probation requirements.

In many cases, customers file unsubstantiated claims that do not even deserve an investigation by the Board. It is not uncommon for allegations against physical therapists in California to be dismissed for lack of ample evidence. However, even if you feel that the evidence against you is weak, you should attempt to go alone. Contact a professional license defense lawyer BEFORE you try to fight it on your own.

Your professional license is precious; you should not risk losing it due to false allegations. You can never go wrong by choosing to seek the assistance of an attorney. An attorney will gather all the necessary evidence and present the evidence during the administrative hearing. Your professional license defense attorney will always start with the goal of getting the allegations filed against you dismissed. In cases where that is not possible, he or she will continue to fight for the next best outcome until the case is resolved or heard by an ALJ. In certain instances, your attorney will be bale negotiate a suitable settlement to help you retain your professional license with minimal impact.

Interim (Emergency) Suspension

The Board might impose an interim (or Emergency) suspension to prevent you from offering physical therapy services during the investigation. Usually, the board only imposes an interim suspension if it fears for the public’s immediate safety. However, your attorney can challenge the interim suspension and request the board to allow you to continue offering physical therapy services during the investigation. It is important to challenge the interim suspension to allow you to continue practicing because the investigation process could take months or years. If the interim suspension is not overturned, you will be entitled to an expedited administrative hearing. Your professional license defense lawyer will know what to do.

Probation Concerns

During probation, you might have to reimburse or payback to the board, all the costs of probation monitoring and investigation. At times, you might not have the money required to pay these costs. Your attorney can help you get additional time to allow you to raise and pay all the necessary costs. It is advisable to ensure that you make payments within the set timelines. Failing to make payments on time might count as a probation violation. The board will usually recommend probation if you have a substance abuse issue. It is also allowable to refer yourself into the probation program. Self-referring is advantageous because it is more confidential than having the board recommend probation. Other Possible Outcomes in most physical therapists’ disciplinary cases, the outcomes are either:

  • Suspension
  • Revocation
  • Probation

Depending on the specifics of each case, the board could also resort to less severe measures of handling disciplinary issues. The common measures that the board might adopt are fines & citations and letters of public reprimand. California’s Business and Professions Code Section 495 allows the board to reprimand or reprove physical therapists and physical therapist assistants. The reprimand is a better outcome than revocation or suspension of your license when you commit an offense. The board may determine that a letter of reprimand is appropriate isolated offenses and it appears is unlikely to repeat. Even in more severe cases, the board could opt for written reprimand when the offender has admitted his/her mistake and has shown remorse and rehabilitation. If the case involves substance abuse, the board might issue a reprimand if the offender has completed a recovery process for a minimum period of one year. However, it is important to note that the reprimand will only apply if you have committed a minor violation. You can only get a reprimand if the violation did not make the patient suffer any harm. When the board issues a letter of reprimand, you can accept the terms of the letter. The board might have in place some requirements that you have to fulfill to avoid harsher punishment. However, you should note that your clients and the general public may be able to see the reprimand online. The board usually posts the letter on its official website, which is accessible by the public.

The board could also impose fines and citations as a form of punishment for committing a violation. The board does not consider fines and citations as a form of discipline. Of course, the fines and citations will indeed feel like a punishment to you. The fines imposed will vary depending on the level of violation. In most cases, the violations range between $100 and $5,000. The law allows the board to deal with minor violations through fines and citations. The citation will also be a public record but may not have a great implication like a letter of public reprimand. However, a citation will still appear on your record and could deter your prospective clients. Therefore, even if you have committed a minor violation, it is still wise to contact an attorney to have the attorney evaluate your case. The consultation should be free.

Naturally, the best outcome would be to have the allegations filed against you dismissed. At times, an Order of Abatement might accompany the fine and citation. This letter requires an offender to stay away from the action for which the citation was issued. Once you agree to pay the fine, it does not mean that you have accepted the allegations. However, the public record will give prospective customers and employers the impression that you committed the offense. It is important to note that having a citation or fine on your record could subject you to harsher punishment if you commit a violation. The judge might not be willing to be lenient with you when you commit an additional offense. You could request your attorney to fight for removal or dismissal of the citation from your record.

Find a Physical Therapy License Defense Attorney Near Me

Have you received an investigation notice from the board, and you fear that your license might be at risk? The Legal Guardian can assist. We will do everything in our power to achieve a favorable outcome. We have helped many people in Long Beach to retain their professional licenses. Contact us at 866-448-6811 and speak directly with one of our attorneys.