Does My Medical Malpractice Claim Qualify for a Lawsuit?November 1, 2021
A 2018 study by Johns Hopkins University revealed a startling statistic. Medical malpractice is the third leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for more than 250,000 fatalities annually. That is one-quarter of a million people whose deaths might have been prevented with proper care.
Everyone has the right to health care provided under universally accepted standards of care. When a medical provider deviates from these standards of care, whether by design or by accident, serious personal injury or deaths can occur.
When that happens, there could be a legal claim of medical malpractice. Note that any licensed medical provider can be the subject of a malpractice lawsuit, including nurses, pharmacists, doctors, dentists, and others.
How Do I Know if I Have a Malpractice Claim?
Medical malpractice is when a patient is injured or their condition worsens because of a health care provider’s negligence. You and your lawyer would need to prove the following in a medical malpractice lawsuit:
A doctor-patient relationship existed. You must establish that you hired the medical professional, and that person agreed to be hired. For example, if you overhear a doctor on the golf course advising someone else, you cannot sue that doctor if you fall ill from their advice. However, you could sue if you began seeing the provider and they began treating you, as that is clearly a relationship. The existence of a relationship can sometimes be cloudy when a consulting provider does not treat you directly. A lawyer can help establish the connection.
The medical provider was negligent. You would also need to prove that the doctor was negligent in connection with your diagnosis or treatment. You must show that they caused you harm in a way that a competent doctor would not have under the same circumstances. It is important to note that the law does not require perfection from a medical provider. The treatment they provide must be reasonably skillful and careful.
Almost every state requires the plaintiff to hire a medical expert to discuss the medical standard and how the provider might have deviated from it. Also, a patient unhappy with a provider, treatments, or results should not presume they have a medical malpractice suit. They must prove actual negligence.
Negligence caused the injury. In some malpractice cases, the plaintiff was already sick or injured. They need to prove that the medical provider actually caused the harm. For example, the family of a person who dies after being treated for lung disease needs to show that it is more likely than not that the doctor directly caused the death. Again, medical expert testimony is generally required. It can be challenging to prove that the doctor, not the disease, caused the death.
The injury resulted in damages. Even if a medical provider deviated from the expected standard of care, you would not be able to sue for malpractice if you did not suffer any harm. If you did suffer injury, you could sue for specific damages, including:
- Physical pain
- Mental anguish
- Unexpected medical bills
- Lost work and lost earning capacity
If you can prove the four points above, you may have a valid medical malpractice claim. Again, the law does not expect perfection from doctors and other medical providers. Even the best ones can make mistakes. A lawyer can help you determine whether you have a valid legal claim.
If a patient dies of medical malpractice, their loved ones will need to file a wrongful death claim that may include elements of a medical malpractice claim.
What are Common Types of Medical Malpractice?
Most medical malpractice claims will fall under one of these categories:
Improper treatment. A valid claim could occur if a doctor treats a patient in a way that no other competent doctor would or if the doctor uses an appropriate treatment but administers it incompetently. As an example, if a doctor decides to use an experimental treatment that is not a recognized standard of care and the patient worsens or dies, there could be a valid legal claim.
Failure to diagnose. The litmus test here is whether a competent doctor would have discovered the patient’s illness or made a different diagnosis that would have led to a better outcome. For example, suppose a patient is repeatedly diagnosed with and treated for chronic throat infections that turn out to be throat cancer. In that case, the patient may have a valid malpractice claim.
Failure to warn. Doctors have a duty to warn patients of known risks of a procedure or course of treatment. If a patient would not have gone through with the procedure or treatment after knowing the possible risks, they may have a valid legal claim if injured. However, the injury must be something that the doctor would have warned about as a known risk.
What Else Should I Know about Medical Malpractice Cases?
There are specific requirements of which to be aware in a medical malpractice claim, including the following:
Deadline to file. In most states, a medical malpractice claim must be brought relatively quickly. In Maryland, a case must be filed within five years of the date the injury occurred or within three years from the date the injury was discovered, whichever is earlier. The date of discovery includes the day the plaintiff should have reasonably discovered the damage.
Malpractice review panel. Many states require that a patient first submit their claim to a malpractice review panel to hear arguments and review evidence, including expert testimony. The panel will then decide whether malpractice has occurred.
In Maryland, there is a screening panel in the Health Care Alternative Dispute Resolution Office, but any party can waive out of the panel.
Also, before filing a medical malpractice lawsuit, the plaintiff must file a Certificate of Qualified Expert, which states that the case has been reviewed by an expert who has found some basis for the plaintiff’s claim, specifically:
- The health care provider did not meet the accepted standards of care when treating or diagnosing the plaintiff.
- That failure caused the plaintiff’s injuries.
If the plaintiff does not file this certificate, their claim most likely will be dismissed.
Expert testimony. In Maryland and most other states, expert opinions are required as part of testimony at a trial or the pretrial malpractice review panel hearing or both.
Limits on damages. In Maryland, there is no cap on economic damage; you can recover whatever economic damages you can prove. There is a limit on pain and suffering and other non-economic damages. Currently, the cap on pain and suffering is $830,000 for an injury case and $1,037,500 for a wrongful death case with two or more survivors.
Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Fight for Clients’ Health
No one should suffer from the negligence of a medical provider. Your life can be dramatically altered because of someone else’s mistake, and you deserve to be compensated. The Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton know the complexities of a medical malpractice case. They have the skill and knowledge to help you receive the compensation you deserve. Our team will handle your case with care and compassion while you focus on healing. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 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.