We are Maryland Medical Malpractice Lawyers. We cover the entire State of Maryland from offices in Baltimore, MD, and Salisbury, MD.
We also frequently visit our clients in hospitals. Over the last several years, we have had occasion to visit personal injury clients in hospitals such as Peninsula Regional Medical Center, University of Maryland Medical Center, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Sinai Hospital of Baltimore, and others. We also on occasion meet with clients in rehab centers across the state. And we make home visits when clients are not able to come to us. In this way, we try to make it easy for our clients to connect with quality legal counsel in their medical negligence cases.
How Long Do I Have to File a Medical Malpractice Case in Maryland?
In general, Maryland health care malpractice cases must be filed within three years. Unfortunately, the Maryland Statute of Limitations is not simple and straightforward. The Maryland medical malpractice Statute of Limitations is found at Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article, § 5-109. Subsection (a) states that “An action [lawsuit] for damages [money compensation] for an injury arising out of the rendering of or failure to render professional services by a health care provider . . . shall be filed within the earlier of (1) Five years of the time the injury was committed; or (2) Three years of the date the injury was discovered.”
Consider that some states run their statute of limitations from the date that the negligent act or omission occurred. Conversely, some states look to when the plaintiff knew or should have known that the doctor malpracticed. In Maryland, we look at both. First, you consider the question, what is the date when the negligence happened? Go out five years from that date. Write that down. Next, consider the question, when did you know or when should you have realized the doctor made a mistake? Go out three years from that date. Write that date down. The earlier of the two dates you wrote down is the deadline for filing the malpractice case.
There are exceptions to this general formula. For example, if the patient was under the age of eleven years at the time of the malpractice, then the statute of limitations rule above will not commence until the patient’s eleventh birthday. And there are exceptions to the exceptions as well. For example, the exception listed above for kids under 11 does not apply if the case involves a retained surgical instrument. The bottom line is that the Maryland statute of limitations, exceptions, and exceptions to exceptions are too convoluted and if you think you or your family member may have been the victim of health care malpractice, you should IMMEDIATELY get a medical malpractice lawyer involved to protect your or your family member’s legal rights.
Is it Expensive to Hire a Maryland Medical Malpractice Lawyer?
The most honest answer to the question, Is it expensive to hire a Maryland Medical Malpractice Lawyer, is: Yes, it’s very expensive, but that’s not something to worry about right now because if and when the fee comes due, you’ll have more than enough to pay it.
Let’s unpack that, shall we? In medical malpractice cases, our attorneys work on a contingency fee basis. That means:
- There is no fee to consult with an attorney in a Medical Malpractice case. (Free consultation).
- There is no fee for us to review the medical records and advise you regarding what is documented about what happened. (Free case evaluation).
- If we accept your Maryland medical negligence case, we will finance the cost of prosecuting the case – for example, you won’t be asked to advance the court’s filing fee, the cost of obtaining a deposition transcript, or the cost of obtaining medical expert review.
- We will take a fee in the end when we obtain a settlement or collect on the judgment we obtain for you. That fee will be a percentage of the settlement or collected award. The better we do our job, then the higher the settlement or award, and consequently the more expensive we become.
- Out of the settlement or award, you will reimburse the firm for all the expenses we advanced in prosecuting the case.
In medical malpractice cases, contingency fee agreements allow regular folks to hire a lawyer and pursue justice without coming out of pocket. A lot of people are hesitant to contact an attorney for help after they or a family member have suffered a bad outcome after medical care or surgery. Cost is a major concern. But it really should not be a concern at all.
Are There Special Requirements for Maryland Medical Negligence Cases?
Maryland health care malpractice law is quirky, having been tweaked and torqued by the Maryland Legislature in an attempt to cure the alleged “medical malpractice crisis” of several decades ago. In this section, we will discuss several special requirements or peculiarities of Maryland medical malpractice law and practice, including (a) filing as an arbitration case, (b) the Certificate of Merit requirement, and (c) various immunities. None of this should discourage you from seeking legal help with your case. This information is provided so you know where we’re coming from and so you have an idea of what kinds of issues arise in this very special type of case.
(a) Maryland medical malpractice cases are all initially filed as arbitration cases
One requirement for a Maryland medical malpractice case is that the Plaintiff can’t just file a lawsuit in the Circuit Court as one would in a car accident personal injury case or a slip-and-fall injury case. The case has to be filed with the Health Care Alternative Dispute Resolution Office. Disregarding that whole separation of powers thing you may recall from high school civics class, the Maryland Legislature made that office part of the Executive Department. (Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article, § 3-2A-03(a)). Once filed, arbitration can be waived and a lawsuit may be filed in the Circuit Court within sixty days of the election to waive arbitration.
(b) Certificate of Qualified Expert requirement
Health care malpractice claims in Maryland require a Certificate of Qualified Expert. A Certificate of Qualified Expert is a written statement by a health care provider who has reviewed the defendant’s work and determined that the defendant’s performance departed from the applicable standard of care and that the departure from the standard of care caused the injury or death of the patient. (See generally Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article, § 3-2A-04.)
The medical expert providing the Certificate must meet several qualifications. For example, he or she must practice or teach in the same field of medical practice as the defendant, must be board-certified if the defendant is board-certified, and must not devote more than 20% of his or her professional activities annually to matters that involve testimony in personal injury claims (this is the so-called “twenty percent rule”).
There is a second, Supplemental Certificate of Qualified Experts requirement found at Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article, § 3-2A-06D requiring supplemental Certificates at the close of discovery. That’s something you don’t normally see in other states’ laws where there are certificates of qualified expert requirements or affidavit of merit requirements.
(c) Special immunities from liability
Maryland law contains numerous special immunity provisions that provide traps for the unwary. Immunity laws prevent injured citizens and the families of patients killed by medical negligence from pursuing civil lawsuits to seek justice. Here are several examples:
- Volunteer team doctors. Doctors who volunteer to serve sports teams at certain schools or educational institutions may have immunity from civil justice lawsuits. Apparently, the Maryland legislature felt it wasn’t terribly important that the doctors treating young student-athletes bring their “A-game” so they gave them the civil equivalent of a Get Out of Jail Free card. This immunity doesn’t apply to all sports doctors or even all treatment by team docs, so if your child was injured by a malpractice sports doctor, contact a Maryland medical malpractice lawyer for a free consultation to learn what can be done.
- Charitable hospitals. Hospitals make tens of millions or hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Sometimes more. But if they are registered as a charitable institution, they can limit their liability to $100,000. Just $100,000. Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article, 5-632 allows hospitals that are charitable institutions to procure a minimum of $100,000 in liability coverage, and then gives them immunity from any judgment in excess of their insurance coverage. A hundred thousand dollars in coverage may sound like a lot . . . till you find out that it costs more than a hundred thousand dollars in many cases to prosecute a medical malpractice lawsuit against a hospital. This paragraph is not meant to discourage you from pursuing a Maryland health care malpractice case. Rather, it is meant to give you an idea of the situation we are dealing with, and to provide encouragement for you to contact an attorney about your potential case ASAP.
- These are just two examples of immunity provisions under Maryland law. We don’t want to bore you with more information about the immunity of ambulance drivers or volunteer doctors who treat homeless people, or any of the rest. We just want to make a point – the laws in Maryland pertaining to medical negligence and exceptions or immunities to medical negligence are peculiar, and it would be a good idea to contact an attorney who is familiar with the law immediately if you feel you may have been victimized by a health care provider’s careless act or omission.
Are there Caps on Damages in Maryland Med Mal Cases?
Unfortunately, there are caps on non-economic damages in Maryland Medical Malpractice Lawsuits. Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article, § 3-2A-09 provides caps in personal injury cases and in wrongful death cases resulting from medical malpractice as follows:
- In Maryland, medical malpractice cases involved injury, the cap on non-economic damages was established as of end-of-December 2008 at $650,000. The cap goes up by $15,000 on the first of January every year.
- In Maryland medical malpractice cases involving wrongful death, you multiply the cap in injury claims by 125%.
It is important to remember that the caps on non-economic damages apply only to non-economic damages, and not to past and future lost wages, past and future medical expenses and other items of special damages (losses that can be calculated).
Common Injuries that Result from Medical Mistakes in Maryland
Our medical and surgical malpractice legal team handles a broad range of injury cases, but due to the substantial time and financial investment required to bring a Maryland medical negligence case, we intentionally limit the nature of injury claims we accept. Our attorneys are available for consultation in cases involving the following:
- Wrongful death. According to Johns Hopkins University, each year in the U.S. 250,000 people die as a result of medical mistakes. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/study_suggests_medical_errors_now_third_leading_cause_of_death_in_the_us) Unfortunately, it is likely that the number is significantly higher. According to this study in Journal of the number is around 440,000 people a year.
- Catastrophic medical injury resulting in significant and permanent disabilities. Very broadly, Maryland law (Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article, 3-2A-01(g)) defines a “medical injury” as an “injury arising or resulting from the rendering or failure to render health care”. Our attorneys are available to handle cases involving life-altering and permanent medical injuries. Some examples of the cases we are available to accept include the following:
- Brain damage
- Major organ failure
- Bowel injuries leading to sepsis
- Other physical injuries resulting in severe loss of function of the human body.
Common Medical Errors that We See
There are many types of medical and medication errors that give rise to legal claims. We have tried to generally categorize the most common types of hospital, physician, and pharmacist negligence for ease of reference. Here are some of the more common categories of health care malpractice that we see in Maryland:
- Failure to diagnose the patient’s condition, or delay in diagnosing the patient’s condition. Example: A 57-year-old male visited his family doctor for a persistent cough. When medication didn’t stop the coughing, the patient returned to the doctor who ordered a chest X-Ray. Due to a mix-up, the doctor failed to recognize that the patient was suffering from lung cancer. By the time the error was discovered, it was too late to save the patient’s life.
- Surgery errors or procedural errors. A 34-year old female was seen in the ER for appendicitis. During appendix removal surgery, the surgeon accidentally nicked the bowel, leading to its contents spilling into the abdominal cavity. Without recognizing his mistake, the surgeon closed the abdomen. Several days later the patient became septic, leading to subsequent surgeries to “wash out” the abdominal cavity, a prolonged inpatient hospital stay, as well as severe and permanent disability.
- Pharmacy errors. There are numerous ways pharmacists can make a mistake that results in injury or death to a patient:
- Dispensing medication that causes an allergic reaction because the pharmacist neglected to inquire about the patient’s known drug allergies,
- Dispensing medication that is contraindicated with another medication,
- Dispensing the wrong medication,
- Dispensing the right medication in the wrong dosage.
- Labor and delivery errors. Labor and delivery errors cause harm to the mother as well as to the child.
- Harm to mother: L&D malpractice can cause physical injury or death to the mother. One major risk of childbirth involves blood loss. Blood loss is normal during childbirth – a normal vaginal delivery will result in the loss of around 500 ml of the mother’s blood. The problem arises when obstetricians, nurses, and midwives fail to recognize and stop excessive blood loss during and after delivery. Postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) is one of the leading causes of maternal death.
- Harm to a child: L&D malpractice can cause physical injury or death to the child as well. For example, there are cases where delivery by Cesarian section is necessary. Instead of recognizing problems preventing vaginal delivery (such as the baby’s head is too large to fit through the mother’s pelvis) and delivering via C-section in a timely manner in order to avoid prolonged fetal distress, the labor and delivery team may wait until it’s too late with severe complications resulting to the child.
- Retained surgical instruments / retained surgical sponges. Surgeons use scalpels, scissors, forceps, needles, clamps, tweezers, towels, sponges, and a host of other tools during surgeries. Unfortunately, some surgeons have trouble keeping track of these items and, on occasion, have been known to leave them inside the patient’s body. This often results in complications such as infection, pain, subsequent surgery to remove the item, and other harms.
- Wrong patient, wrong site, and wrong limb surgeries. Although it may be hard to believe, it happens on occasion that a surgeon will perform surgery on the wrong patient. Or get the patient right, but perform the wrong surgery, or operate on the wrong body part (for example, carpal tunnel release on the right wrist when it should have been done on the left wrist).
- Failure to turn immobile patients leading to pressure sores. It is very unfortunate, but the hospital, rehabilitation center, and nursing home patients are often left immobile for unreasonably long periods of time when they should be “turned”. When left in one position for long, pressure sores can form. Pressure sores are also known as decubitus ulcers. These sores are incredibly painful and can lead to systemic infections, amputations, and death.
- Patient drops and patient falls. Drops and falls during patient transfers are an all-too-common cause of severe injuries in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and nursing homes. Poorly trained staff who are in a hurry often fail to follow proper procedures in executing patient transfers, such as by using a mechanical lift or slider board. Fractures and major organ damage can be fatal for many patients.
These are just some of the many types of Maryland medical malpractice cases we see in our day-to-day law practice. There are many types of medical errors and we are sure we haven’t seen them all just yet. If you believe you or a family member has fallen victim to the careless or negligent conduct of a doctor, surgeon, nurse, hospital, nursing home or other health care provider, please feel free to contact our attorneys today.