Our law firm handles medical malpractice cases in Maryland.
This is not your boring boilerplate questions and answers. (Actually, there are a few of these). These are really the medical malpractice FAQs that our lawyers believe get to the heart of the questions you might have about your potential malpractice case.
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 is provided that falls below the recognized “standard of care.” The standard of care can be defined as the process a competent, average healthcare professional would follow in a given situation.
How Do I Know If Medical Malpractice Occurred?
To have a successful claim, you must be able to prove that a healthcare professional violated the standard of care. You have to show 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:
- A doctor or other healthcare provider made a mistake or rendered negligent care; and
- 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 looks at your alleged injuries and whether or not they were caused by your doctor’s negligent care. Even if a doctor was blatantly negligent, you cannot bring a lawsuit if that negligence did not cause you any harm. A seasoned medical malpractice lawyer can help you figure out what happened and determine if you have a case.
How hard it is to prove a malpractice case depends on how hard it is to prove those two key elements.
If A Procedure Is Not Successful, Is That Malpractice?
Doctors are not automatically considered negligent when a medical procedure is not successful or has a bad outcome. Even when the highest level of care is provided, doctors cannot guarantee results. To have a malpractice claim, the bad outcome must be the result of 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. However, this time limit is flexible depending on the situation.
For example, if an injury is not discovered right away, victims have three years from the date the injury was detected to file suit. Additionally, minors who were the victims of medical malpractice have until their twenty-first birthday to file regardless of how old they were when the injury happened. If at all possible, it is best to file sooner rather than later to have the best chance at a successful case.
I Did Not Follow All Of My Doctor’s Instructions, Can I Still Bring A Lawsuit?
It depends on what caused your injury. If failing to comply with your doctor’s instructions was the cause of your injury, defense lawyers will be able to make a strong case against you.
On the other hand, if your failure to follow your doctor’s instructions had 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 in the deceased patient’s medical records, doctors will have a harder time making that argument.
Can I Still Bring A Medical Malpractice Action If I Signed A Waiver Or Consent Form?
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 excuse negligent care.
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 his or her firm will then investigate your case.
They begin by obtaining all of your relevant medical records. Once all of the records have been gathered, your attorney will review them and consult with an expert, another doctor in the same specialty. 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 very rapidly. If the expert does not think that 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 7 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 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 plaintiff’s injuries.
How Do Lawyers Prove Medical Malpractice?
To prove a claim of medical malpractice in court, you will need to present opinion testimony from expert witnesses, i.e. other doctors. Basically, you gather all of the relevant medical records and non-disputed facts of your case. Then you find another qualified doctor, i.e., a doctor of the same specialty and education, to review your case and give their opinion as to whether your doctor was negligent.
At first, this expert opinion will be presented in the form of 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 what the applicable standard of care was in your situation. This is what a reasonable doctor should have done. She will also need to articulate exactly how your doctor breached this standard of care.
You will also need expert testimony as to whether your doctor’s negligence was the proximate cause of your alleged injuries. Specifically, your expert will need to 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 a challenge to find doctors who are willing to stand up 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 who are willing to stand up for victims who have wrongfully suffered as a result of medical malpractice.
- List of medical experts who testify in malpractice lawsuits
Will My Doctor Alter My Medical Records When He Or She Finds Out I Am Filing A Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?
This is unlikely, although it happens occasionally. Almost every Maryland doctor has insurance that will cover 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 patient’s medical record 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.
- Altering medical records can be a complicated issue in medical malpractice lawsuits
How Do I Get My Medical Records?
In Maryland, patients have a legal right to obtain copies of his/her medical records. Healthcare providers can charge an amount specified by Maryland statute for the copies. Miller & Zois will get your medical records for you if we agree to investigate your case.
- How to collect medical records quickly.
If I Sue My Nurse Practitioner, Is the Doctor 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 the following functions independently:
- Comprehensive physical assessment of patients
- Establishing medical diagnosis for common short-term or chronic stable health problems
- Ordering, performing, and interpreting laboratory tests
- Prescribing drugs
- Performing therapeutic or corrective measures
- Referring patients to appropriate licensed physicians or other healthcare providers
- 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
Can I Settle My Case Without Filing A Lawsuit?
This is one of the most common medical malpractice frequently asked questions. The answer is not what people want to hear. Malpractice insurers and hospitals rarely settle a malpractice case if a lawsuit has not been filed.
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 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 who are willing to fight for their plaintiffs have a good chance of winning.
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. There are three factors that dictate the value of a malpractice case:
Economic damages: 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. The 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 receive compensation for the mental as well as the physical pain and suffering caused by their injuries. More severe physical injuries will naturally involve more pain & suffering and will, therefore, have a higher value.
Strength of claim: This is really the most important factor in calculating settlement payouts. For cases that are settled out of court, the strength of the plaintiff’s medical malpractice 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 of the costs and expenses and eat those expenses if the client loses the case.
Does The Experience of the Victim’s Malpractice Attorney Matter?
The two factors most closely correlated with settlement value are the severity of the victim’s injury and the experience of the malpractice lawyer.
The best malpractice lawyers are highly sought after, which means they usually handle the best cases. Regardless of that fact, 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 a lot of 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.
But the doctor being found guilty of malpractice rarely leads to disciplinary actions against the physician’s license to practice medicine. Yes, in some cases it could be the impetus for a further investigation that could lead to the 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. If we do not win your case, you are not obligated to pay any of these costs.