Maryland Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations
In Maryland, if you believe you have been the victim of medical malpractice, it is important to keep your eye on the calendar because there are specific timelines for how long you may have to file a lawsuit in court. This is called a statute of limitations. In Maryland, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits is 3 years.
However, if an injury is not detected immediately, the victim has 3 years from the date from which the injury is detected to file suit. But suit must be filed in any even within 5 years absent unusual circumstance. One of those unusual circumstance is claims for minors. For children, the clock starts ticking when the child reaches 18, regardless of how old they were when the injury happened.
So then, what is an “injury”? This can be confusing because the statutory language does not define what an injury is, but an injury is what triggers the clock to start ticking, so it is important to figure out whether you have suffered an injury and when.
Maryland courts have tried to define what it means. In Edmonds v. Cytology Services of Maryland Inc., the court stated that tin order to determine if an injury has been committed, the question to ask is whether the patient has suffered harm that is “legally cognizable.” A “legally cognizable” harm exists if there are damages.
Therefore, if you are trying to look at when an injury happened to figure out the statute of limitations, you must ask yourself if you have suffered harm with compensable damages. Moreoever, it is important to remember however, that the clock starts ticking from when the injury first occurred even if it is not discovered until later. The five year period begins to run when injury (or “damages”) first arises and not when all damages resulting from the physician's negligence have occurred.
Here is a list of examples of what an “injury” could look like as a result of a negligent misdiagnosis, as stated by the Edmonds court:
(1) he or she experiences pain or other manifestation of an injury;
(2) the disease advances beyond the point where it was at the time of the misdiagnosis and to a point where (a) it can no longer effectively be treated, (b) it cannot be treated as well or as completely as it could have been at the time of the misdiagnosis, or (c) the treatment would entail expense or detrimental side effects that would not likely have occurred had treatment commenced at the earlier time; or (3) the patient dies.
Even if the injury is not discovered until later, the statute of limitations is triggered when the injury or damage first arose. This is important in cases of misdiagnosis of a disease like cancer.
In the case of Linton v. Evans, a patient brought a lawsuit against her medical practitioners after they failed to diagnose breast cancer despite her repeated concerns of finding lumps on her breast. Two years later, the patient was diagnosed with cancer but learned a month later that her breast cancer was at stage 3C. For purposes of the statute of limitations, the court held that the injury or damage first arose when she was diagnosed with cancer because there was “some harm.” Her diagnosis in and of itself was evidence of compensable harm. However, her later-acquired knowledge of what stage her cancer was in was just confirmation of her disease and not an injury.
In this patient’s case, the earlier date – the date of her cancer diagnosis – was the date that controlled the statute of limitations. What does this mean? A potentially worth plaintiff does not get past the courtroom door.
Don't let this happen to you. Call a lawyer and figure out when you have to file your claim. Immediately.
Take Home Message: Assume the Limitations Period is Three Years
Many Maryland statute of limitations cases go down just like this case. Please listen to this: when in doubt, assume that you could have discovered you injury and the cause of it the day that it happened because this is how it plays out in 99% of the medical malpractice cases we see. So many many people come to us thinking their limitations period is longer than three years because they did not "know" it was malpractice. This is not just a death trap that victims themselves have fallen into: many medical malpractice lawyers assume the discovery rule will save them but the court sees it very different.
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The full text of Maryland’s Statute of Limitations in medical malpractice cases can be found in section 5-109 of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland. A part of the statute currently states that for children, the statute of limitations starts running when the child turns 11 or in some cases, 16. However, that part of the statute was clarified by Maryland’s Court of Appeals in Piselli v. 75th Street Medical, 808 A.2d 508, 371 Md. 188 (2002), which held that the clock starts ticking when the child turns 18 years old.
(a) An action for damages for an injury arising out of the rendering of or failure to render professional services by a health care provider, as defined in § 3-2A-01 of this article, shall be filed within the earlier of:
(1) Five years of the time the injury was committed; or
(2) Three years of the date the injury was discovered.
(b) Except as provided in subsection (c) of this section, if the claimant was under the age of 11 years at the time the injury was committed, the time limitations prescribed in subsection (a) of this section shall commence when the claimant reaches the age of 11 years.
(c)(1) The provisions of subsection (b) of this section may not be applied to an action for damages for an injury:
(i) To the reproductive system of the claimant; or
(ii) Caused by a foreign object negligently left in the claimant's body.
(2) In an action for damages for an injury described in this subsection, if the claimant was under the age of 16 years at the time the injury was committed, the time limitations prescribed in subsection (a) of this section shall commence when the claimant reaches the age of 16 years.
(d) For the purposes of this section, the filing of a claim with the Health Care Alternative Dispute Resolution Office in accordance with § 3-2A-04 of this article shall be deemed the filing of an action.
(e) The provisions of § 5-201 of this title that relate to a cause of action of a minor may not be construed as limiting the application of subsection (b) or (c) of this section.
(f) Nothing contained in this section may be construed as limiting the application of the provisions of:
(1) § 5-201 of this title that relate to a cause of action of a mental incompetent; or (2) § 5-203 of this title.
More Maryland Malpractice Statute of Limitations Cases
- Anderson v. United States (2012)
- Zander v. United States (2011) (federal court)
- Swam v. Upper Chesapeake Medical Center (2007)
- Jacobs v. Flynn (2000)
- Young v. Medlantic Lab (1999)
- Rivera v. Edmonds (1997)
- Hill v. Fitzgerald (1985)
- Group Health Ass'n v. Blumenthal (1983)
- Hill v. Fitzgerald (1985)
- Glenn v. Morelos (1989)
- Russo v. Ascher (1988)
More Information for Medical Malpractice Victims
For individuals who are victims of medical malpractice in Maryland, vist our main malpractice page. Another good place for information is our frequently asked medical negligence questions. This section provides details as to the nuances of health care negligence claims We also explain our seven steps to brining a malpractice case from the moment you hire us, and provide information on the potential money value of your medical malpractice claim.
Types of Claims Our Malpractice Lawyers Handle in Maryland
Our lawyers pursue claims in the Baltimore Washington area for:
- Birth injuries including cerebral palsy, brachial plexus palsy, erbs palsy, shoulder dystocia and other pregnancy related injuries.
- Hospital malpractice in the emergency room or after admission, surgical errors such as cutting or severing organs, nerves, ducts (often during gallbladder surgery), vessels or bowels, anesthesia mistakes, misuse of robotic surgical system (da Vinci) and infections.
- Medication or drug errors and mistakes such as drug overdoses, unrecognized drug allergies or improper use or combination of drugs), Gentamicin poisoning.
- Failure to diagnose the patient's condition such as cancer (breast, skin) and heart conditions,
- Nursing home abuse, and nursing home/hospital slip and fall cases.
Free Maryland Malpractice Claim Consultation
If you live in the Baltimore Washington area and believe you have been a victim of a medical error, call 800-553-8082 or get a free online malpractice consultation.