If have suffered a serious injury or the death of a loved one and you suspect medical malpractice, it is hard not to be confused. There is no question that the path to navigate in a medical malpractice case in Maryland in complicated, so much so that your average Maryland personal injury lawyer who does not regularly handle malpractice claims would have a tough time pushing the case forward without making a fatal mistake.
That said, this website does contain all of the information you need to get your arms around the process. While we cannot anticipate every possible question you might have, these questions will get you started in better understand the road ahead for you and your family.Big Picture Malpractice Questions
- How do I know if I have a medical malpractice claim?
- What is required before counsel can file suit on my behalf?
- Is a medical doctor required to testify in a medical malpractice case in Maryland?
- My physician knows I'm thinking of bringing a medical malpractice lawsuit? Should I be concerned that the doctor will alter or amend my medical records?
- It has taken me over a year to build up the nerve to find out more about what happened to me. Am I running out of time to file a lawsuit in Maryland against my doctor?
- I signed an informed consent form. Can I still bring a claim?
- I want to sue my nurse practitioner. Is he/she the doctor in charge of the office also negligent for failure to supervise the nurse practitioner?
- If a procedure was not successful, is that malpractice?
- How do I get my medical records?
- What is the Maryland Health Care Malpractice Statute?
- What do I do if I suspect malpractice, but I'm just not sure?
- What is cerebral palsy?
- What is Erb's Palsy?
- Are nursing home abuse or neglect injuries and deaths medical malpractice cases?
- Where can I find more resources to understand better what I'm dealing with and what I can expect?
Medical malpractice is where a medical doctor or other health care provider failed to meet the standard of good medical practice in the area in which the medical professional practices. In other words, the health care provider failed to do what a reasonable health care provider would have done under the same circumstances. If malpractice occurred, the health care provider would be liable for any resulting damages that are the direct cause of the negligence.
In other words, a successful case will require that you prove two things. First, an error by a health care provider. Second, the injury must be the direct result of the mistake. That's it. Of course, there can be a medical error made but no injury if you were not injured as a consequence.What is required before a medical malpractice lawyer can file suit on my behalf?
Our Health Care Malpractice Claims Statute requires that before filing a Circuit Court claim, you must first file with the Director of the Maryland Health Claims Arbitration Office. Compliance with the Act's arbitration requirements before a lawsuit may not be avoided, either by express agreement of the parties or by mere oversight.
Within 90 days of filing a claim in arbitration, you must file a certificate of merit from a qualified expert who has recent experience in the relevant field attesting to failure to meet the standard of care and that the breach was the proximate cause of your injuries.
- Seven steps to filing a malpractice case
In almost every case, experts are required to establish the standard of care for treating a patient who presented in a similar fashion as the plaintiff. The doctor must also testify that there is a greater than 50% likelihood the plaintiff's injuries would not have occurred if their doctor had not made a mistake. Accordingly, before we file your case, we consult with physicians who are willing to offer their opinions as to whether he or she believes that an error has occurred. Because many local doctors are unwilling to give opinions because they regularly work with the physicians who are the defendants, we are often required to go outside of the state to find the experts we need to prosecute the case. Our law requires the applicable standard of care to be proven by expert testimony expressed to a "reasonable degree of probability." So the victim's say so is not enough. You need expert testimony or the court will dismiss the case as speculation or conjecture that does not give rise to a valid action. (See J. Murphy, Maryland Evidence Handbook, §1404.)My doctor knows I'm bringing a malpractice lawsuit? Will he alter or amend my medical records?
It is unlikely although it happens occasionally. Most doctors who commit negligently hurt or kill a patient are not dishonest people or even bad doctors. For whatever reason, they made a mistake. This is why almost every Maryland doctor has insurance. If doctors do "alter" medical records when they fear a claim, the alteration usually comes in the form of the entry they make on the medical records in the first instance as opposed to altering it after the fact.
Moreover, it is often difficult for doctors to change medical records because the information may be in several different records and can be cross-checked. So while records alternations are rare, our Maryland medical malpractice attorneys are always aware of the possibility. Accordingly, we look for inconsistencies in the medical records that indicate an alteration.Am I running out of time to file a medical malpractice lawsuit in Maryland against my doctor?
The statute of limitations in Maryland is five years from the time the malpractice was committed or three years from the date the injury was discovered, whichever is shorter. If you are hesitant to bring an action against your doctor you are not alone. Studies show that in most severe injury cases, the patient, or the patient's family in wrongful death cases, does not bring a claim.
- More on the statute of limitations in these cases
Yes. While this form may limit your ability to bring an informed consent case to some degree, your understanding of the risks involved does not mean that you cannot bring a claim against a negligent doctor if he/she fails to perform according to acceptable levels of care.I want to sue my nurse practitioner. Is he/she the doctor in charge also responsible?
Doctors in Maryland are required to supervise physicians' assistants. Nurse practitioners are a different story. Our regulations provide that a nurse practitioner may perform independently the following functions under the terms and conditions outlined in the written agreement. (1) Comprehensive physical assessment of patients; (2) Establishing medical diagnosis for common short-term or chronic stable health problems; (3) Ordering, performing and interpreting laboratory tests; (4) Prescribing drugs; (5) Performing therapeutic or corrective measures; (6) Referring patients to appropriate licensed physicians or other health care providers; and (7) Providing emergency care.
In other words, nurse practitioners function mostly as doctors. Accordingly, there may not be an independent cause of action against the doctor for negligence (although there may be other viable claims).
- Bringing lawsuits against nurses and nurse practitioners in Maryland
In the vast majority of cases, a bad outcome does not mean the doctor done something wrong. Doctors cannot guarantee results. The question is whether the outcome would have been different if the physician exercised the ordinary standard of care. To succeed, a plaintiff must show an injury or damages that resulted from the deviation from the standard of care applicable to the procedure.How do I get my medical records?
In Maryland, a patient has a legal right to obtain copies of his/her medical records. If the patient wants to review them or has their lawyer review them, the health care provider can charge an amount specified by Maryland statute for the copies. In our cases, we will get your medical records for you if we agree to investigate your case.
- How to collect your medical records quickly
The Maryland legislature enacted the statute in 1976 for the purpose of providing a mandatory arbitration system for all medical malpractice claims. The statute requires the submission of certain medical malpractice claims against doctors to an arbitration panel for an initial assessment before the claim is submitted to the trial court.
The arbitration panel is either a three-person panel consisting of an attorney, a health care provider and a lay person, or, upon agreement of the parties, an arbitrator, in place of the three-person panel. The Maryland medical malpractice statute requires that a person with a claim first file that claim with the Director of the Health Claims Arbitration Office.
The plaintiff must also file a certificate of qualified expert attesting to a defendant's departure from the relevant standards of care which proximately caused the plaintiff's injury. As a practical matter, the mandatory arbitration of medical malpractice claims in Maryland did not come to fruition because medical malpractice attorneys in Maryland may waive the arbitration requirement and take the case to court, which malpractice lawyers almost invariably do.
- What are the key differences between a malpractice case and other types of civil lawsuits?
What is cerebral palsy?
Cerebral palsy is an umbrella term to describe a functional disorder caused by damage to the brain during pregnancy, delivery, or shortly after birth. The disorder is caused by faulty development of or damage to motor areas in the brain that disrupt the brain's ability to control the body's movements or posture. In some people, cerebral palsy is barely noticeable. Others will be more severely affected. The cause of cerebral palsy is sometimes linked with lack of oxygen during birth as the result of medical malpractice.What is Erb's Palsy?
Erb's palsy (also called Brachial Plexus palsy) is a birth injury that is caused by trauma called shoulder dystocia to the unborn child. Children who suffer from Erb's palsy often suffer a loss of control and sensation in their neck, shoulders, arm and hands.
Erb's palsy can be caused by a medical mishap, usually during the delivery of the baby. What often happens is that the child's shoulder gets stuck under the mother's pubic bone following the delivery of the head. Sometimes, the delivering doctor will panic and will apply excessive force on the baby to dislodge the shoulder. When this happens, damage may occur to the nerve bundles located in the shoulder region causing Erb's palsy.Are nursing home abuse or neglect injuries and deaths medical malpractice cases?
The answer to the question of whether a nursing home case is a health care negligence case depends on the facts of the claim. Nursing home cases involving mismanagement of the patient's medical condition are very common. They may involve the nursing home medical director, nurses, or other healthcare providers may be a medical malpractice claim. If this is the case, they are sued as health care providers under Maryland law. Other cases of neglect and abuse are not medical malpractice claim.