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Maryland Medical Malpractice Frequently Asked Questions

Our law firm handles medical malpractice cases in Maryland. Navigating the complexities of medical malpractice in Maryland can be daunting. Whether you’re dealing with the aftermath of a medical procedure gone wrong or you simply want to understand your legal rights, you need help.

At Miller Zois, our Maryland medical malpractice lawyers are committed to helping you understand what constitutes medical malpractice, how to proceed with a claim, and what you can expect throughout the legal process in a malpractice claim. Below you’ll find the essential questions and answers crafted by our experienced attorneys to guide you through your medical malpractice concerns.

These are not your boring boilerplate questions and answers. (Actually, there are a few of these. But not many.) These are the medical malpractice FAQs that our lawyers believe get to the heart of your questions about your potential malpractice case and what you have to do from here to file your medical malpractice lawsuit in Maryland.

What Is Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice is a type of professional negligence committed by a doctor or another licensed healthcare professional or facility, such as a nurse, therapist, or hospital.

Medical malpractice occurs when medical care falls below the recognized standard of care. The standard of care can be defined as the process a competent, reasonably skilled healthcare professional would follow in a given situation.

How Do I Know If Medical Malpractice Occurred?

To have a successful claim, you must prove that a healthcare professional violated the standard of care and that you were harmed because the doctor failed to do what a reasonable healthcare professional would have done under the same circumstances.

So how do you win a medical malpractice lawsuit? In other words, there must be evidence to support two basic requirements:

  1. A doctor or other healthcare provider made a mistake or rendered negligent care, and
  2. Your injuries were a direct result of the mistake or negligent care.

The first requirement focuses on the quality of care you receive and whether it satisfies the standards of good medical practice.

The second requirement examines your alleged injuries and whether or not your doctor’s negligence caused them. Even if a doctor was blatantly negligent, you cannot bring a lawsuit if that negligence did not cause you harm. A seasoned medical malpractice lawyer can help you determine what happened and whether you have a case.

The difficulty of proving a malpractice case depends on the difficulty of proving those two key elements.

If A Procedure Is Not Successful, Is That Malpractice?

Doctors are not automatically considered negligent when a medical procedure is unsuccessful or has a bad outcome. Doctors cannot guarantee results even when the highest level of care is provided. To have a malpractice claim, the bad outcome must result from a doctor’s deviation from the standard of care.

How Long Do I Have To File A Medical Malpractice Lawsuit In Maryland?

In Maryland, the statute of limitations on medical malpractice is three years.

This general statute of limitations for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit is from the date the injury was discovered or reasonably should have been discovered. This rule – called the discovery rule – is designed to ensure that claims are made while evidence is still fresh, but it also recognizes that some injuries or effects of malpractice may not be immediately apparent. The discovery rule allows patients some flexibility to file a claim after they become aware of an injury that could not have been reasonably identified earlier.

However, Maryland also imposes a statute of repose, which limits the time to file a medical malpractice lawsuit to no more than five years from the date the alleged malpractice occurred, regardless of when the injury was discovered. This means that if the injury is discovered more than five years after the malpractice event, the opportunity to file a lawsuit may be lost. Additionally, for minors who are victims of medical malpractice, Maryland law extends the filing deadline, allowing them to file a lawsuit until their 21st birthday, irrespective of the date on which the malpractice occurred.

I Did Not Follow All Of My Doctor’s Instructions. Can I Still Bring A Lawsuit?

It depends on what caused your injury. If you fail to comply with your doctor’s instructions regarding the cause of your injury, defense lawyers can make a strong case against you.

On the other hand, if your failure to follow your doctor’s instructions has nothing to do with the harm they caused you, there should not be an issue.

A problem we often encounter is when a doctor claims a deceased patient failed to comply with their instructions. If the patient has passed away, it is hard to prove that the doctor is lying. However, if there is no indication of the doctor’s instructions, the deceased patient’s medical doctors will have a harder time making that argument.

Can I still bring a medical malpractice action if I sign a waiver or consent form?

Yes. While this form sometimes limits your ability to bring an informed consent case to some degree, your understanding of the risks involved and that risk occurring does not excuse negligent care. In the end, it all boils down to whether the doctor made a mistake, regardless of what the consent form says.

How Do I Start a Medical Malpractice Claim?

The first step to start a medical malpractice claim is to retain a medical malpractice attorney. The attorney and their firm will then investigate your case.

They begin by obtaining all of your relevant medical records. Once all the records have been gathered, your attorney will review them and consult with an expert or another doctor in the same specialty. Under Maryland law, it is necessary in medical malpractice lawsuits to present expert testimony to establish both the standard of care applicable to the healthcare provider and the breach of that standard that allegedly caused the injury. This is to ensure that the claims are grounded in medically sound principles and not merely speculative. They will give an opinion as to whether medical malpractice occurred.

If the expert agrees that your doctor may have been negligent, your case will move forward rapidly. If the expert does not think your doctor did anything wrong, the lawyer may choose not to take your case. At that point, you may want to retain another lawyer.

For a more detailed, step-by-step overview of the medical malpractice claim process from start to finish, visit our page on the seven steps to file a malpractice suit.

What Is The Maryland Health Care Malpractice Claims Statute?

The Maryland legislature enacted the Health Care Malpractice Claims Statute (HCMCA) in 1976 to provide a mandatory arbitration system for all medical malpractice claims. This statutory scheme is how you sue doctors in Maryland. The statute requires that plaintiffs file with the Director of the Maryland Health Claims Arbitration Office before filing a Circuit Court claim.

Within 90 days of filing a claim in arbitration, plaintiffs 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 the plplaintiff’snjury.

Under MaMaryland’sCMCA, plaintiffs are required to file a Certificate of Qualified Expert (CQE), which must attest to a departure from standards of care and that such departure is the proximate cause of the alleged injury. This is codified under Md. Code, Courts & Judicial Proceedings Article § 3-2A-04.  The Act specifies that the expert must be qualified by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education to testify to the standards of care and causation.

How Do Lawyers Prove Medical Malpractice?

To prove a medical malpractice claim in court, you must present expert testimony from expert witnesses, i.e., other doctors. Basically, you gather all of your cacase’selevant medical records and non-disputed facts. Then you find another qualified doctor, i.e., a doctor of the same specialty and education, to review your case and give their opinion on whether your doctor was negligent.

At first, this expert opinion will be presented as a letter or written opinion. As your case progresses, however, your expert will need to testify at a deposition or in court to explain his opinions.

Your expert will need to explain the applicable standard of care in your situation—what a reasonable doctor should have done—and articulate exactly how your doctor breached this standard of care.

You will also need expert testimony as to whether your dodoctor’segligence was the proximate cause of your alleged injuries. Specifically, your expert must testify that your injuries would likely have been avoided if your doctor had provided appropriate care.

How Do Malpractice Lawyers Find Experts?

It can be challenging to find doctors who are willing to advocate for patients at trial. It is particularly difficult to find Maryland doctors who are willing to testify against other Maryland doctors.

Thankfully, if you know where to look, you can find respected and experienced doctors willing to stand up for victims who have wrongfully suffered due to medical malpractice.

Will My Doctor Alter My Medical Records When They Find Out I Am Filing A Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?

This is unlikely, although it happens occasionally. Almost every Maryland doctor has insurance covering them if they are found guilty of malpractice. Moreover, it is difficult for doctors to get away with changes because there are often multiple copies of a papatient’sedical history that can be cross-checked.

Alterations to medical records are rare, but medical malpractice attorneys are always aware of the possibility. Accordingly, we look for inconsistencies in the medical records that indicate an alteration has been made.

How Do I Get My Medical Records?

In Maryland, patients have a legal right to obtain copies of their medical records. Healthcare providers can charge an amount specified by Maryland statute for the copies. Miller & Zois will get your medical records if we agree to investigate your case.

If I Sue My Nurse Practitioner, Is the Doctor Also Responsible?

Doctors in Maryland must supervise phphysicians’ssistants and nurse practitioners, which is a different story. Our regulations provide that a nurse practitioner may perform the following functions independently:

  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 healthcare providers
  7. Providing emergency care

In other words, nurse practitioners function primarily as doctors. Accordingly, although there may be other viable claims, there may not be an independent cause of action against the doctor for negligence.

Can I Settle My Malpractice Case Without Filing A Lawsuit?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions about medical malpractice. The answer is not what people want to hear. Malpractice insurers rarely settle a malpractice case if a lawsuit has not been filed. Hospitals sometimes settle out-of-court before a lawsuit is filed. But usually not even when they think a mistake has been made.

Do Most Lawsuits End In Settlements Or Trials?

Most of our malpractice cases are settled. Good malpractice cases have a high rate of settlement. However, we have also tried many malpractice cases and gotten seven-figure verdicts in instances when insurance companies refused to make an offer.

What Are My Chances Of Winning A Medical Malpractice Suit In Maryland?

Most medical negligence cases that go to trial in Maryland end in a defense verdict. Plaintiffs win only about 8% of the time.

So, you might think it is hard to win a malpractice case, and your chance of getting a settlement amount or jury payout is slim. Not really. Most malpractice cases that end favorably for the plaintiff settle before trial.

Why? Defense lawyers only want to take cases they are sure to win to trial. They are afraid of losing, they really are. So most good medical malpractice lawsuits end in settlements that are too good for the victim to turn down.

Good lawyering matters, too. Our malpractice lawyers have won the majority of our malpractice lawsuits at trial. Good cases handled by the best malpractice lawyers willing to fight for their plaintiffs have a good chance of winning.

It is also fair to say that you have a better chance of winning a malpractice claim against a hospital than against an individual doctor. This, again, is another reason why hospital malpractice lawsuits are more likely to settle.

How Much Can I Expect To Receive From My Medical Malpractice Claim?

The average settlement or verdict amount in medical malpractice cases nationwide is $250,000. Three factors dictate the value of a malpractice case:

Economic damages are all of the money you lost and had to spend as a result of the malpractice and all of the money you will lose and have to spend in the future. Past and future lost income and medical expenses resulting from medical malpractice will greatly impact the value of the case. The more medical expenses and lost wages you have, the higher the potential value of your case.

Pain and suffering damages: In addition to economic damages, medical malpractice plaintiffs are entitled to compensation for the mental and physical pain and suffering caused by their injuries. More severe physical injuries will naturally involve more pain and suffering and, therefore, have a higher value.

Strength of claim: This is really the most important factor in calculating settlement payouts. For cases settled out of court, the strength of the plaiplaintiff’spractice case against the defendants will often drive the settlement amounts. If the plaintiff has a particularly strong case that will be easy to prove at trial, the defendants will want to avoid a trial and will offer more to incentivize the plaintiff to settle.

What Happens When You Lose a Malpractice Case?

The real question here is, does it cost you anything if you lose a malpractice case?

The answer is no if you enter into the most common agreement malpractice lawyers enter into with clients. Most malpractice attorneys – including us – front all the costs and expenses and eat those expenses if the client loses the case.

Does The Experience of the VictVictim’spMalpractVictim’srneyter?

The two factors most closely correlated with settlement value are the severity of the victvictim’sury and the experience of the malpractice lawyer.

The best malpractice lawyers are highly sought after, which means they usually handle the best cases. Regardless, obtaining experienced counsel with a good track record is a critical ingredient of successful claims.

What Happens to Doctors Guilty of Malpractice?

There is not much tangible revenge to be had with a medical malpractice lawsuit. Certainly, a malpractice verdict against a healthcare provider can damage their professional reputation. This negative reputation may affect their ability to attract patients, secure employment, or maintain credibility within the medical community.

However, if a doctor is found guilty of malpractice, it rarely leads to disciplinary actions against the physphysician’sical license. Yes, in some cases, it could be the impetus for a further investigation that could lead to the suspension or revocation of their license. But usually not.

Can I Afford Your Law Firm?

Our law firm handles medical malpractice cases on a contingency basis. This means that you will not pay a fee unless we get you a recovery. We also front all of the additional costs of your malpractice case. You are not obligated to pay any of these costs if we do not win your case.

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They quite literally worked as hard as if not harder than the doctors to save our lives. Terry Waldron
Ron helped me find a clear path that ended with my foot healing and a settlement that was much more than I hope for. Aaron Johnson
Hopefully I won't need it again but if I do, I have definitely found my lawyer for life and I would definitely recommend this office to anyone! Bridget Stevens
The last case I referred to them settled for $1.2 million. John Selinger
I am so grateful that I was lucky to pick Miller & Zois. Maggie Lauer
The entire team from the intake Samantha to the lawyer himself (Ron Miller) has been really approachable. Suzette Allen
The case settled and I got a lot more money than I expected. Ron even fought to reduce how much I owed in medical bills so I could get an even larger settlement. Nchedo Idahosa
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