What Do I Need to Know Before I Pursue a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?October 1, 2020
When a patient is injured, or their health has been compromised while under the care of a health care professional, the logical next step is to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the health care professional, particularly if the medical error caused severe health complications. However, it is important for patients to understand that not every medical mistake amounts to medical malpractice. Doctors, nurses, and other health care providers are human and capable of making mistakes, but in order for a patient to have a valid medical malpractice claim, they must be able to prove that the health care provider was negligent or failed to live up to his or her duty of care. If negligence was involved, a skilled Baltimore medical malpractice lawyer will assist the patient with the claims process and secure the financial compensation they deserve.
How Do I Know If I Have a Valid Medical Malpractice Claim?
Before proceeding with the claims process, there are a number of important factors that patients need to consider, including the following:
- Duty of care: The patient must be able to establish that there was a doctor-patient relationship and that the doctor or other health care professional owed the patient a duty of care. That means that the doctor should have provided that same care that another doctor in a similar specialty with a comparable educational background would have provided.
- Breach of duty: This occurs when the health care provider failed to provide the duty of care, which resulted in harm to the patient. For example, if a surgeon who was operating on a patient left a surgical instrument inside the patient’s body, this is an example of a breach of duty.
- The breach of duty resulted in an injury: If the physician’s breach of duty caused a serious injury or health complication, this may be considered medical negligence. For example, if the surgical instrument that was left inside the patient caused a serious infection, perforated organs, or severe pain, the injury was caused by a breach of duty.
- Sufficient evidence: The patient will need to provide medical evidence that supports their claim. In addition to the patient’s medical records that document the extent of the injury, the patient will need to provide testimony from a credentialed medical expert who can attest to the fact that the injury or health complication was due to medical negligence.
What Medical Professionals May Be Liable for Being Sued?
A patient can pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit against a medical professional who failed to provide responsible care, which caused injuries or negative health consequences. The following are examples of medical professionals and entities that can be sued for medical malpractice:
- The hospital, clinic, or medical practice
- Nursing home
Common Types of Medical Malpractice
Medical errors are one of the leading causes of death in the United States. In fact, only cancer and heart disease cause more deaths in this country. The following are examples of some of the most common medical mistakes that lead to medical malpractice claims:
- Diagnostic errors: To provide effective treatment, the health care provider must make an accurate diagnosis. Heart attacks and cancer are among the most misdiagnosed conditions. When a potentially life-threatening condition is not diagnosed in a timely manner, the condition can progress and become much more serious and more difficult to treat. This can lead to serious injuries and devastating health complications.
- Surgical errors: Even the most routine surgeries come with certain risks, including infection, hemorrhaging, and anesthesia complications that are sometimes unavoidable. However, the following are examples of surgical errors that are due to negligence:
– Surgical instruments left in the body
– Incision errors
– Wrongful amputation
– Operating on the wrong patient or the wrong body part
– Oxygen deprivation
- Medication errors: These involve prescription errors, dosing errors, and the incorrect administration of a drug. In addition, if the health care provider failed to discuss potentially harmful drug interactions or whether the patient is allergic to any medication, this can cause serious health complications. In severe cases, an allergic reaction or drug interaction could be fatal. Examples of medication errors include improper drug combinations, drug overdoses, unrecognized drug allergies, and gentamicin poisoning.
- Treatment errors: If a health care provider diagnoses a condition but fails to treat the patient, delays the treatment, discharges the patient too soon, or fails to provide the appropriate follow-up care, this can lead to a range of serious health complications. The patient’s condition can progress and become more serious if it is not treated in accordance with the acceptable standard of care. If the patient is discharged before they have fully recovered, the condition for which they are being treated can become worse.
- Birth injuries: Common preventable birth injuries include spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy, Erbs palsy, brachial plexus palsy, cephalohematoma, and injuries that cause nerve damage, including shoulder dystocia.
- Nursing home abuse: Unfortunately, some nursing homes and long-term care facilities are understaffed and overworked. In some cases, this can result in the mistreatment of the patients. Common examples of nursing home abuse include medication errors, slip and fall events, neglect, physical abuse, and improper treatment of patients.
What is the Statute of Limitations for Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit in Maryland?
Patients who wish to file a medical malpractice lawsuit must do so within three years from the date that the injury or error was discovered, or within five years from the date that the incident occurred. If the patient files the claim after the appropriate deadline, the claim will likely be denied. An experienced medical malpractice lawyer can assist patients with the claims process and ensure that they have all the necessary information so that the claim is filed before the deadline passes.
How Do I Go About Filing a Medical Malpractice Claim?
It is highly recommended that patients who wish to file a medical malpractice lawsuit consult with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer. Patients who hire a malpractice lawyer to protect their legal rights are much more likely to secure a sizable financial settlement than if they tried to navigate the claims process on their own. A dedicated malpractice lawyer will work closely with the client and assist them with every phase of the claims process, including the following:
- Notify the doctor or health care provider: The patient notifies the doctor or health care provider that they plan to file a malpractice claim. In some cases, the health care professional may offer to remedy the problem or offer some other solution free of charge.
- Contact the appropriate medical licensing board: The licensing board can issue warnings or other disciplinary actions to the physician. They may also be able to offer guidance on what the patient’s next steps should be.
- Obtain a certificate of merit: This is required in all medical malpractice cases in Maryland. The document must be signed by a medical expert who is in the same field as the health care provider who is being sued. The report must show that the patient has a valid claim against their physician.
- Consider an out-of-court settlement: Depending on the detail of the case, this may or may not be the best course of action. Many malpractice cases are settled out of court, and the patient’s malpractice lawyer will recommend the best legal course of action.
Types of Damages
If it is determined that the patient’s health care provider was negligent, they may be entitled to financial compensation. A medical malpractice lawyer will seek the following damages on behalf of the client:
- Economic damages: These are tangible losses that the patient has incurred as a result of the medical error. They include current and future medical expenses, past and future lost wages, out-of-pocket expenses, vocational rehabilitation, and lost earning capacity. In Maryland, there is no cap on economic damages.
- Non-economic damages: These damages cannot be quantified and often refer to losses that are more abstract. They include pain and suffering, physical impairments, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of consortium, and disability or disfigurement. The cap on non-economic damages for 2020 is $830,000. In a wrongful death case, the cap is $1,037,500.
- Punitive damages: A medical malpractice lawyer may seek punitive damages if the medical professional acted in a way that was particularly egregious. These are uncommon and meant to punish the health care provider and prevent that individual from committing a similar negligent act in the future. For example, if a physician was performing a surgical procedure while under the influence of alcohol, a medical malpractice lawyer may seek punitive damages. In Maryland, there is no cap on punitive damages.
Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Assist Clients with the Claims Process
If you were injured or your health was compromised while under the care of a medical professional, do not hesitate to contact the Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We will walk you through every step of the claims process and ensure that you receive the maximum financial compensation you deserve. Our dedicated legal team will continue to fight for you until you are completely satisfied. To schedule a free 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.