Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers
Studies estimate that medical errors account for 100,000 to 250,000 deaths in the U.S. annually. However, less than 10 percent of medical errors are actually reported. Victims of medical malpractice who seek justice may face many challenges, compared to other personal injury claims. Filing a successful claim requires the testimony of medical experts who can speak to the grievous error that has occurred, and legal teams must be extraordinarily organized when presenting a case. The laws governing medical malpractice are state-specific, with various rules on statutes of limitations, compensation caps, the use of expert testimony, and other requirements.
Choose the Medical Malpractice Experts at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton
When harmed due to the negligence of a health care provider, it is critical to seek legal guidance from attorneys who are familiar with Maryland law. The experienced team at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton handles all types of medical malpractice claims, including birth injuries, misdiagnosis, and surgical errors. Our attorneys ensure that each case is thoroughly reviewed during the consultation and that each client receives the customized client care he or she deserves. Our Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers will ask questions, investigate the case, and determine who is liable for the pain and suffering caused.
What Constitutes a Valid Medical Malpractice Claim?
A valid medical malpractice claim includes the following three elements:
In other types of personal injury claims, negligence may be defined as a breach of a duty of care, which is an individual’s responsibility to avoid causing harm to someone else. In medical malpractice law, negligence is defined as a departure from the accepted standard of care. That is a bit different, as it requires another medical expert in the same field to testify what does and does not constitute a standard of care. Furthermore, the injured patient must be able to show that the health care professional’s negligence directly caused the harm he or she experienced in order to sue for damages. This is why we work with expert witnesses and collect doctor’s statements to show that malpractice caused pain and suffering.
If a patient is suffering and does not improve, or the patient’s condition is untreatable, that alone does not constitute medical malpractice. We must go the extra mile to show that malpractice caused the injuries. Doctors are human beings and make mistakes. Errors may not cause damages; those that do may be considered negligence by the courts. All valid medical malpractice cases hinge on proving that the actions or inactions of the health care provider failed to meet the appropriate standard of care under the circumstances of the treatment.
Types of Negligence in Medical Malpractice Claims
There are several ways in which a doctor may breach the accepted standard of care and thus be considered negligent. The doctor may commit malpractice just once or be guilty of malpractice on several levels while a patient was under his or her care.
These forms of malpractice include:
Cancer Misdiagnosis/Delayed Diagnosis: A cancer misdiagnosis can be even more devastating than a typical misdiagnosis. Cancer can spread while the doctors and medical professionals in charge of the case avoid the inevitable. Doctors may have written off cancer without the proper testing or told the patient that he or she was overthinking the symptoms. If the doctors or medical professionals eventually come to the right conclusion, he or she may have caused irreparable harm and cost the patient hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical expenses. Lost earning potential, disability, or death of a loved one could have occurred because of a delayed cancer diagnosis.
Doctor Negligence: Negligent doctors may tell nurses or medical assistants to ignore the patient’s pain while in the hospital, or the patient may have been given the inappropriate medication for his or her symptoms. Doctor negligence also includes isolation or missed visits during rotations.
Emergency Room Errors/Misdiagnosis: The emergency room is a busy place that must be staffed and managed properly by doctors and nurses working each shift. Emergency room errors could cause long-lasting health problems when a patient is misdiagnosed, sent home, or scheduled for a surgery he or she did not need. A patient might also be given the wrong medication or prescription because he or she was rushed out of the emergency room.
Hospital Negligence: Hospitals may not properly monitor anesthesia, or surgeries may be scheduled improperly. In these troubling cases, the wrong patient undergoes the wrong surgery. Orderlies, medical assistants, and phlebotomists may not be trained, monitored, or supervised properly. The hospital may not have provided adequate security for the patient or the patient may have been treated using the improper charts or records because medical personnel did not take the time to verify who he or she was treating.
Misdiagnosis: This includes making a diagnosis that is incorrect, as well as the failure to identify the medical condition altogether. This may also include erroneous assumptions on the part of the physician. A doctor may tell a patient that he or she needs to lose weight when, in fact, the patient has a condition that causes weight gain. That underlying condition could also be deadly or debilitating.
Medical Mismanagement: This involves errors made in managing the patient’s care, regardless of whether the diagnosis was correct. Doctors who get the diagnosis wrong are completely mismanaging care by treating a patient for the wrong illness or disease. Doctors who prescribe the appropriate treatment might manage that treatment poorly, cause injuries, or even kill the patient.
Surgical Errors: This may include errors made during surgery or other medical procedures. The surgery may have been completed incorrectly, or surgical tools could have been left in the patient. The doctors or medical staff may have also acted inappropriately in response to an emergency during the patient’s surgery.
Medication Errors: If a doctor prescribes the wrong medication or the wrong dosage causing harm to a patient, it may be considered an act of negligence. This might also include prescribing a name brand medication at the behest of a pharmaceutical company, even though the patient has been using generics for quite some time. This type of malpractice can be especially dangerous if the physician does not heed warnings given by the manufacturer or inadvertently causes an allergic reaction by prescribing the improper medication.
Failure to Provide Informed Consent: Health care providers are responsible for explaining all the risks associated with a given procedure or treatment. If a patient was told that a procedure was simple, that may be true for the doctor. The patient, however, may be subjected to side effects, a long recovery, or other medical conditions that occur after a procedure.
Birth Injuries: These injuries may occur just before, during, and immediately after the delivery of a baby. The doctor or midwife might misdiagnose a difficult birth, improperly prescribe a C-section, or unnecessarily induce labor. Faulty equipment might have been used during the birth or the doctor may have used excessive force.
Performing Duties While Under the Influence: This happens rarely, such as if a doctor was under the influence of alcohol or drugs while tending to a patient, or if he or she administered lethal levels of medication because his or her judgement was compromised.
Which Forms of Malpractice are Most Common?
According to a study commissioned by a national medical liability insurance firm, the three most common grounds for medical malpractice claims are misdiagnosis, surgical or medical procedure errors, and medical mismanagement.
The percentages reported include the following:
- 32 percent involved misdiagnosis
- 24 percent involved surgery or medical procedures
- 14 percent involved medical mismanagement
- Nine percent were attributed to prescription errors
- Misdiagnosis of cancer, infections, and heart conditions account for more than half of the medical conditions in diagnosis-related claims
Who Commits Medical Malpractice?
Health care providers and health care facilities in a variety of specialties may be held liable for medical malpractice, including the following:
- Nursing homes
- Physicians, including general practitioners
Studies indicate that most health care professionals are highly conscientious of their duties; it is a minority of providers that make the most mistakes resulting in medical malpractice claims. Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine indicated that in a 12-year period, just 2.3 percent of practicing physicians were responsible for more than one-third of the paid medical malpractice claims. Moreover, the study found that physicians with several claims were three times more likely to incur an additional claim.
How does this happen? Research indicates that offending physicians tend to move into smaller practices after a lawsuit, and new patients make appointments at these smaller practices without knowing the doctor’s past record. At the same time, doctors may take chances in order to treat patients. If a patient ever feels uncomfortable while working with a doctor, change practices immediately. If a patient is being pressured into a risky treatment or procedure that makes him or her question the doctor’s judgement, go elsewhere.
To avoid doctors with past medical malpractice claims, Maryland residents can look up a doctor’s profile using the Maryland Board of Physicians. These profiles show whether a physician has faced any disciplinary actions or malpractice claims within the past 10 years. This is especially important when a patient is meeting a doctor for the first time but know nothing about them. A patient might even uncover someone who has been practicing without a license or has a horrific malpractice record. Patients can also mitigate the risk of medical malpractice by asking questions during doctors’ visits, getting a second opinion, and bringing an advocate along to appointments, if needed.
Maryland Malpractice Laws
If a patient files a medical malpractice claim due to a medical error, he or she should be aware of three types of laws covering medical malpractice in the state of Maryland.
Filing a medical malpractice lawsuit requires that a patient satisfies the first two elements and understand the third element:
Statute of Limitations: In Maryland, a patient must file a medical malpractice claim within five years of the event itself or three years from the date the injury was discovered. There are exceptions, however, which grant longer time to the following victims:
- Children under the age of 11
- Children 16 years or younger suffering harm to his or her reproductive systems, or who have foreign objects in his or her body
- Persons under the age of 18 with mental disabilities
Birth injuries and other medical problems in young children may not become apparent until the child is older. In all cases, any attempt to file a claim after the applicable statute of limitations has expired will probably be futile. Seeking the guidance of one of our experienced medical malpractice lawyers can help a patient file all the necessary paperwork before the legal deadlines.
Expert Testimony: Maryland requires a Certificate of Qualified Expert within 90 days of filing a claim. In this certificate, a qualified medical professional provides sworn testimony that he or she has reviewed the case and believes that the health care provider in question failed to provide the accepted standard of care. The qualified expert must be state licensed in the same medical discipline as the health care provider named in the claim. Failure to provide a Certificate of Qualified Expert will likely mean the case will be dismissed by the court.
We understand that a patient may have received a range of opinions from friends and family. He or she may even have a doctor in the family, but a patient needs a certificate from a third-party physician who is licensed in the same discipline, who is licensed in Maryland, and who believes malpractice occurred. This is a heavy burden of proof, and a patient cannot satisfy the court alone.
Compensation Caps: Maryland has a cap on non-economic damages. For 2020, that cap is $830,000. Pending any changes in legislation, the cap will increase by $15,000 per year. However, there is a slightly different cap formula involving medical malpractice and wrongful death suits when there are two or more beneficiaries. In those circumstances, the total award cannot exceed 125 percent of that year’s cap.
Types of Damages
Specifying damages is one of the essential elements of a viable medical malpractice claim. A patient cannot simply sue a doctor for as much money as he or she pleases. The legal system does not work that way.
There are three types of damages that a patient may expect to receive, and we will help the patient understand how he or she might obtain compensation for:
Economic Damages: These are tangible out-of-pocket costs, including medical bills, lost wages, transportation to medical appointments, and anything else for which the patient has receipts. Maryland medical malpractice laws do not place a cap on economic damages.
Non-Economic Damages: These types of damages are capped by Maryland law, and include compensation for physical pain and suffering, as well as trauma, such as anger, depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Punitive Damages: These are penalties imposed upon the negligent parties to hold them accountable for his or her actions and send a message to others in the profession to refrain from negligent behavior. Because these damages are meant to punish the offending party, they will not represent a financial windfall for the plaintiff.
In a medical malpractice case, it is extremely important to obtain all medical records that support a claim. Maryland residents have the right to receive copies of personal medical records. However, due to privacy laws, obtaining medical records of a deceased individual can be challenging.
An experienced medical malpractice lawyer can help wrongful death clients gather the medical records needed to substantiate a medical malpractice claim. Keep in mind that Maryland has specific rules for wrongful death cases. The surviving parents, children, or spouses of the deceased may file a wrongful death claim. If no such relatives exist, the claim may be filed by cousins, nephews, aunts, or uncles of the deceased. If these relatives do not exist, a representative of the deceased’s estate may file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the estate within three years of the date of death.
Why is an Experienced Medical Malpractice Lawyer Important?
Successfully arguing a medical malpractice claim requires experience, patience, and skill. Our attorneys can provide the level of professionalism needed to see each case to a successful conclusion. At LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton, we take a special interest in helping clients with medical malpractice claims.
Several reasons for choosing our firm to handle a medical malpractice claim include:
- We have handled thousands of personal injury cases for Maryland residents since 1987.
- We use a team approach when managing each case. Multiple attorneys will work on the case and meet with health care specialists to compile evidence.
- We are disciplined and detail-oriented professionals. We help victims obtain maximum compensation by structuring a strong case using tried-and-true methods.
- We answer questions and make sure clients always have access to a lawyer who knows his or her case inside and out. We never allow a client to sit by the wayside confused by the legal jargon we use, or the procedures required by the Maryland court system.
- We do not hesitate to take cases to trial if that is in the client’s best interest. In all circumstances, we put a priority on preparation, communication, and diligence from the moment the initial consultation begins to the case’s ultimate resolution. We are well prepared to go to trial if the defendant is not willing to listen to the claim or settle.
Should I Accept a Settlement?
Whether the victim should take a settlement depends on the value of the settlement and whether he or she believes it is appropriate given economic and non-economic losses. Our attorneys present settlement offers and counsel on whether it is wise to accept the offer based on our decades of experience in the personal injury and medical malpractice arena.
A victim has every right to accept a settlement if he or she believes it is in the best interest to do so. At the same time, we advise not to do the following things:
- Accept phone calls from hospital or medical office. If these representatives want to discuss the case, send all communications to our office for review.
- Accept phone calls from the doctor’s lawyer. These lawyers may try to gather information that could be used to invalidate the claim. These lawyers might also offer a tiny settlement to make the case go away.
- Call the hospital, doctor, or insurance company to complain. Phone calls to large institutions are often recorded, and victims do not want to say anything that could invalidate the claim. At the same time, anything rude or profane said on a recorded call could be played in open court, which is damaging to a case.
Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Help Individuals Injured by Medical Negligence
The Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton are dedicated to protecting your rights if you or a loved one was severely injured as a result of the actions of a medical professional. Call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online for a free consultation. We keep flexible office hours and can be reached 24 hours a day for emergencies.
Located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie and Prince George’s County, 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, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood and Elkridge.