How can I Navigate a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit in Maryland?January 5, 2021
As the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic has demonstrated, frontline health care workers are invaluable. Nurses, doctors, and other medical professionals are entrusted to make informed medical decisions that are always in the best interests of the people in their care. Unfortunately, even the most skilled and trained professionals make mistakes. Conditions are misdiagnosed. The wrong medications are prescribed. Treatment plans are flawed.
There is so much at stake when medical malpractice occurs. That is why patients who are impacted by medical mistakes have the right under the law to sue the doctor who harmed them. Patients experiencing these mistakes should seek assistance from an experienced medical malpractice lawyer.
What Constitutes Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice is a legal term referring to a critical error by a doctor or other health care provider. It is the failure to meet the accepted standard of care established by the medical community. That failure must directly result in injury or death to a patient or a group of patients. With that said, an important distinction must be made. Medical malpractice does not include the exercise of professional judgment, even if the outcome is detrimental to the patient. One must consider the choices doctors make every day to improve the health of their patients.
Doctors and other medical providers are empowered to make judgment calls during patient care. Although those decisions are based on logic, experience, and training, there are no guarantees they will ensure a positive outcome. Because every individual and their medical history and symptoms are unique, each will respond differently to treatment. Every person cannot be healed or saved, but that does not necessarily mean malpractice took place.
If a patient and their lawyer can show that most reasonable medical professionals would have diagnosed and/or managed their case differently, grounds for a medical malpractice suit may exist. Medical malpractice is a serious offense with financial, legal, and even criminal consequences for some providers.
What are Some Examples of Medical Malpractice Cases?
For a better understanding of what medical malpractice looks like in the eyes of the law, the following landmark cases are presented:
Newborn develops cerebral palsy. A pregnant mother in Maryland developed preeclampsia during her pregnancy. After 22 hours of induced labor, she gave birth to a baby girl with cerebral palsy, which developed when the baby did not receive enough oxygen during the birth. The child will need 24-hour care for the rest of her life. The mother and her child received a multi-million-dollar award, but the hospital is currently appealing the case.
Improper treatment during emergency room visit. A Maine woman received more than $1 million after visiting the emergency room for a hematoma on her leg. Despite informing the staff she was taking a blood-thinning medication, they provided no specific care instructions based on that fact. The medication caused her condition to worsen, eventually causing a blood clot that warranted surgery and skin grafts that left her permanently impaired.
Patient is awake during surgery. In 2006, a man received general anesthesia before undergoing surgery. Generally, two types of anesthesia are used during this type surgery, but the second type was incorrectly administered during his procedure. That left the patient awake and feeling every part of the surgery, but still unable to communicate and alert the doctors.
After around 20 minutes, hospital staff realized their error and corrected it. After the surgery, the man suffered panic attacks and nightmares, ultimately committing suicide. Surprisingly, his experience is not unique. An estimated 20,000 to 40,000 patients experience so-called anesthetic awareness in the United States every year.
What Steps Should I Take When Bringing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?
These examples show why it is so important to hold negligent medical professionals accountable. A single medical mistake can leave a patient with a lifetime of pain and disability.
Patients should take the following steps in a medical malpractice claim:
Consult with a medical malpractice lawyer. Medical malpractice suits are among the most challenging to build and prove. It is not recommended for a layperson to navigate a claim without lawyer’s guidance. Victims should choose a lawyer with experience handling medical malpractices cases and achieving good results. During the first initial case review, a lawyer learns exactly what happened, how the client was impacted, and explores any legal remedies available to pursue justice and financial compensation.
Gather documentation. In medical malpractice cases, the plaintiff or patient bears the burden of proof to show the health care provider was negligent in some way, and that negligence directly and negatively changed the patient’s life. Evidence is the key to meeting that burden of proof. At this stage, the plaintiff should compile the following documentation:
- Financial records
- Test results
- X-rays and other diagnostic images
- Witness statements
- Laboratory results
Obtain a certificate of merit. Maryland is one of few states in the nation that require a party’s lawyer to file a certificate of merit within 90 days from the date a medical malpractice claim is filed. A certificate of merit is a report from a qualified expert, a doctor most likely, confirming the plaintiff’s injuries were caused by a departure from the reasonable standard of care. Without a certificate of merit, the case will be dismissed.
Begin the discovery process. If the plaintiff decides to go to court, a complaint is filed notifying all involved parties of the lawsuit. From there, the discovery process begins. During discovery, lawyers on both sides request information related to the case. They can hire expert medical witnesses to speak to the facts of the case and determine if the medical course of treatment was reasonable or negligent. If the defendant’s expert witness believes the case has merit, their side will likely attempt to settle out of court to minimize the settlement amount.
Consider a settlement. Medical malpractice cases can be time consuming and stressful. For someone who may already be living with physical challenges after a medical mistake, the process can be especially daunting. That is why many injured individuals opt to take an out-of-court settlement as compensation. Both parties’ lawyers work to arrive at a settlement amount through negotiation. If they cannot agree, they must enlist a mediator to assist with the process. A fair and reasonable settlement includes compensation for all the plaintiff’s losses, including the following:
- Loss of income
- Permanent disability
- Emotional trauma and mental anguish
- Physical pain and suffering
Before accepting a settlement, the plaintiff should consult with their lawyer to confirm it is the best course of action considering the injuries and level of negligence involved.
Go to trial. Although mediation works well in many cases, sometimes both parties cannot reach an agreement. If that happens, the case goes to trial. Medical malpractice cases are among the most difficult lawsuits to win. The plaintiff and their lawyer must prove the doctor acted in error and that error constitutes medical negligence. It is best to hire a lawyer with specialized experience leading malpractice claims in Maryland.
Can I File a Medical Malpractice Claim Before the Legal Deadline?
A person who believes they are a victim of medical malpractice should file a claim within the state of limitations in their state. In Maryland, patients have up to three years to sue their doctor. However, most lawyers would not recommend waiting too long to start the legal process.
Some delays are inevitable because certain medical conditions develop or worsen over time, well after the initial medical mistake. In other situations, it is best to start the process in a timely manner to ensure the facts of the case are fresh in everyone’s mind and there is no opportunity for medical records and other evidence to be lost or destroyed.
Medical professionals have a responsibility to provide the highest quality of treatment for every patient. When they cut corners or somehow act with negligence, patients get hurt. Legal action is one way to hold doctors and other health care providers liable for those oversights. A consultation with a trusted lawyer is always the first step in the path to justice.
Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Hold Negligent Doctors and Hospitals Accountable
It is easy to feel angry and despondent when the highly trained doctor you trusted to diagnose or treat your illness or injury makes a serious mistake, causing you more pain and suffering. It is so important to hold health care providers to the highest standards of patient care. Those standards help keep the public safe and deter other health care providers from acting carelessly. The dedicated Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton are committed to achieving the best possible outcome for your case. To schedule a free consultation, call 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.
Our offices are conveniently located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout 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.