How Long Do I Have to File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?July 13, 2022
We count on our doctors and other medical professionals to do their best work to help us feel our best. But that is not always possible.
Medical professionals are human and can make errors like all other people. When the error reaches the level of professional negligence, you might have a case for medical malpractice.
Medical malpractice cases are relatively common. Virtually all doctors and their employers carry medical malpractice insurance because of it. However, even the strongest cases could fall apart if you wait too long to make your case.
Maryland allows up to five years to file medical malpractice claims following harm caused by medical malpractice. But the harm might have happened while the patient was under age 18.
In such cases, the clock does not start running until you turn 18. Therefore, you might have until you turn 23 to file a lawsuit for medical malpractice in the Maryland court system.
Wrongful Death Has a Shorter Statute of Limitations
You have up to five years to file a lawsuit in which medical malpractice is the cause of action when the victim is alive. If the medical malpractice resulted in wrongful death, that timeframe is significantly shorter.
A wrongful death claim arising from medical malpractice has a three-year statute of limitations. The clock starts at the deceased party’s date of death.
A medical examiner’s autopsy and report on the cause of death could contribute toward proving medical malpractice claims. So could an autopsy performed by a medical professional hired by the surviving family.
The medical diagnosis should explain the cause of death. It also should explain how a wrongful death occurred from the medical care that was provided.
The three-year statute of limitations on wrongful death medical malpractice claims partly is due to the medical examiner process in Maryland. The process generally reveals the harm done. Also, another doctor could affirm that malpractice caused the death to occur relatively quickly.
Statute of Limitations Explained
The statute of limitations is a legal term for the time limits that plaintiffs have to file a legal case against another person. The statute of limitations is designed to reduce the potential for overloading the nation’s legal system with ongoing lawsuits and criminal prosecutions.
Only the most serious of criminal offenses, such as rape and murder, are exempt from the statute of limitations. In addition, there are no potential civil cases that are exempt from the statute of limitations in Maryland and other states.
The statute of limitations imposes a time limit on making claims against defendants. That helps to prevent someone from filing a lawsuit many years after the fact.
The more time that goes by after a possible legal offense, the less likely a defendant will be able to provide a reasonable legal defense. The passage of time and loss of potential evidence and witnesses would make it virtually impossible to present a well-reasoned and supported legal defense.
The statute of limitations can be flexible based on the circumstances of the case. However, once expired, it is impossible to make legal claims against another party. That includes medical malpractice claims against medical services providers.
Injury Discovery Initiates Another Time Limit
Although you have up to five years to file a medical malpractice claim in Maryland courts, the timeframe could become even shorter. Maryland law says that you have three years after you discover the medical malpractice to file your lawsuit. That includes instances in which you reasonably should have known that you suffered a medical malpractice personal injury.
For example, you might undergo surgery, and the surgical team might leave a sponge in your surgical wound. Foreign objects left inside surgical wounds often cause health complications, such as an infection.
You might learn of the medical mistake six months after the initial surgery. That would start the clock ticking on the three-year statute of limitations to file a medical malpractice claim.
Therefore, the statute of limitations starts running when your injuries are obvious and known or should be known.
Time Limit to Affirm Medical Malpractice
When you file a medical malpractice claim, Maryland law requires you to file a “certificate of qualified expert” within 90 days. The certificate is a medical report from a qualified expert in the field who affirms the injury caused to you through medical malpractice.
The certificate must show that the:
- Medical care provided did not meet acceptable standards.
- Substandard medical care caused your injuries.
The state requires the affirming diagnosis from a medical expert who is qualified to make that diagnosis.
The certificate will affirm the harm that you suffered. It also will affirm that the doctor or one or more other medical professionals violated the acceptable standard of care.
Without the certificate, a Maryland court could dismiss your medical malpractice claim. However, you might be able to request an extension.
An experienced medical malpractice lawyer likely would have the certificate ready prior to filing the medical malpractice claim in a state court.
Federal Statute of Limitations Might Apply
Maryland has more than 41 federally funded hospitals and medical centers that provide patients with medical treatment. Because the facility is federally funded, any medical malpractice claims would have to be filed in federal court.
The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) requires you to file your medical malpractice claim against a federally funded provider within two years of your injury occurring from medical negligence. The same applies to minors who suffer injuries caused by medical malpractice at a federally funded services provider.
The FTCA determines how you file federal medical malpractice claims. The process starts by presenting your claims to an appropriate federal agency. That agency will have six months to respond.
If no resolution occurs within six months, you can proceed with a federal lawsuit. An experienced malpractice lawyer can help to present strong claims against a federally funded facility, its doctors, and staff.
General Requirements for Medical Malpractice Claims
You cannot simply accuse a medical professional of malpractice after you suffer an injury and win the case. Evidence must support your argument.
You will have to show that the medical care was substandard. Also, you will have to show that the substandard care caused you to suffer harm.
The certificate of qualified medical expert is a strong tool for doing both. That is why Maryland courts require you to provide one within 90 days of filing your case.
The medical diagnosis of your injury and subsequent medical care are suitable forms of evidence that demonstrates the harm. In addition, one or more medical experts could confirm that the care given to you caused you to suffer that harm.
A medical expert also will have to report on how the medical care provided was below the accepted standard of care for your condition.
Just because a medical professional got something wrong does not mean malpractice happened. Medical science continually evolves, and so do the accepted standards of care.
It is possible for accepted standards to eventually become unacceptable because of new discoveries in medical science. Therefore, the accepted standard of care at the time that you obtained the treatment is the guideline for malpractice.
A medical professional could abide by the accepted standard of care while treating you. But medical harm still might happen. As long as the medical professional provided you with an accepted standard of treatment, your injury would not be due to malpractice.
Therefore, it is important to demonstrate how the care provided to you was below the accepted standard at the time. A medical specialist often is a good source of that kind of evidence.
Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Advocate for Patients Harmed by Medical Malpractice
Patients harmed by the negligent acts of a health care provider need to know there is a statute of limitations for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. If you or a loved one is contemplating a suit against a negligent doctor, reach out to the Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. Our experienced legal team will look closely into your case and take timely action to secure the compensation for which you are entitled. Call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
We have offices in Baltimore, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, allowing us to represent clients in Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Parkville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.