Part of living a high-quality life means being and staying healthy. Whether we’re heading to our primary care physician for a check-up or are experiencing medical issues that require intervention and treatment from doctors, it’s common to be nervous; however, most patients expect to receive the treatment they need so they can restore order to their lives as quickly as possible. When that does not happen and injuries are sustained because a physician or other medical professional acted negligently, our Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers are prepared to help victims recover.
Most medical procedures are routine, which means we’re allowed to expect our physicians will know what they’re doing and will act accordingly. In the event of an emergency procedure, we’re to trust that the hospital team caring for us is trained and well-versed in a variety of situations. Unfortunately, there are a number of reasons preventable errors occur in hospitals, doctor’s offices, or during an ambulance trip.
If you believe you’ve been a victim of a medical error, our personal injury attorneys have the experience and knowledge needed to help you build a strong legal case to hold the negligent party responsible for their actions. In order to file a successful med mal claim, it’s best to have some background knowledge on the area of law. Let’s start with how Maryland defines malpractice.
Defining Medical Malpractice
While state laws vary, there’s a general consensus that malpractice occurs when a physician or other health care professional neglects the standard of care, injures a patient as a result, and that patient suffers monetary and emotional damages from the injury. Understanding the breakdown of medical malpractice can help you when you’re building a case with your Baltimore attorney.
Standard of care is a legal term. It refers to the degree of skill and care the average doctor, in any particular specialty, would provide to a patient. In other words, it’s what the average physician would do when presented with similar circumstances. If a doctor acts in a way that another would not have, the standard of care can be used to prove that they negligently injured their patient and that a different doctor would have resulted in a different outcome.
Often times, negligence and malpractice are used interchangeably; however, these words have their own definitions that carry their own weight. Malpractice is technically a form of negligence. Negligence refers to blatant inattentiveness or departure from what the reasonable standard of care would be in a given situation. Malpractice, as a type of negligence, refers specifically to a breach in the standard of care between a professional and their patient. Only professionals can be guilty of malpractice, while anyone can be found to be negligent.
Are Hospital Errors a Common Occurrence?
If you believe you are the victim of a medical mistake, you are not alone. Hospital errors occur frequently, according to a study completed by Johns Hopkins in 2016. Patient safety experts analyzed medical death rates over an eight-year period, and their findings may surprise you. According to their calculations, more than 250,000 deaths per years are the result of a medical error. That makes hospital errors the third-leading cause of death in the United States.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the top three causes of death are heart disease, cancer, and accidents resulting in unintentional injuries; however, their third cause only resulted in 161,374 deaths – nearly 100,000 fewer than mistakes in the medical field. Johns Hopkins researchers note that the CDC’s way of collecting national health statistics fails to classify medical errors separately on death certificates.
The study noted a number of reasons as to the high number of medical deaths. Most errors are the result of poorly coordinated care, fragmented insurance networks, the underuse of safety nets and protocols, and a lack of accountability for physicians.
What You Need to Know About Filing a Claim in Maryland
In order to file a claim against a physician or hospital in Maryland, you’ll need to understand the state’s medical malpractice laws. Your attorney will be able to guide you through the process, so all deadlines are met and you’re prepared to present a claim that shows how you were wronged and why you deserve compensation to aid in your recovery.
First, you’ll need to make sure you file your claim within the statute of limitations. A statute of limitations is an established time limit an individual has to take legal action against another person or entity. These limits exist primarily because evidence is likely to be lost over time, which can make proving a case difficult and costly.
In Maryland, claims must be filed within five years of the date the alleged malpractice incident occurred, or within three years from when the injury was discovered. It’s important to note, however, that minors are not subject to the statute of limitations until 11 years of age or age 16 if the injury is to the reproductive system or involves a foreign object.
In addition to meeting the time restriction, the state requires plaintiffs to file a certificate of merit. This certificate must come from a qualified medical expert, be filed within 90 days of the initial complaint, and state the specific injury, the alleged breach of care, what the negligent doctor should have done, and show how the breach led to the injury. After the certificate is filed, the parties can decide if they want to go through arbitration or straight to court.
Maryland is one of a few states that recognizes contributory negligence. With this concept, a plaintiff is prevented from recovering damages if a judge or jury finds the plaintiff to be at fault for any portion of their injuries. Even if a doctor is found to be 99 percent at fault, the one percent will prevent any recovery. If recovery is possible, damages are capped. Your Baltimore medical malpractice lawyer will be able to determine what you are eligible for.
Types of Medical Malpractice Our Lawyers Can Assist With
Unfortunately for patients, there are a number of ways a person can be wrongfully injured in a hospital setting. Many mistakes are the result of miscommunication, understaffing, fatigue, and blatant negligence. Often times, the standard of care is used to show how a medical professional failed to provide their patient with the treatment they needed and deserved.
Our medical malpractice lawyers take on a variety of cases, so we can help as many victims as possible recover from what they’ve been through. Some of the most common types of medical malpractice we see include the following:
Birth Injuries. Expecting a child is exciting; however, the labor and delivery process can be stressful. With the right doctor and medical team, it’s likely the birth will go as planned. But when negligent actions or inactions are taken, the mother or infant could sustain a birth injury.
Surgical Errors. Undergoing a surgical procedure is often a complicated process. Having a knowledgeable and prepared team is important so that the procedure goes as planned and possible complications are handled. When a surgeon or any member of a surgical team is negligent, life-changing surgical errors can occur. A patient could have to undergo additional surgeries or expect a significantly longer recovery period.
Emergency Room Error. ERs are frequently busy and it’s easy for an understaffed facility to become overwhelmed. It’s crucial, however, for staff members to ensure they see patients in the order of severity. If, for example, a person with an ear infection is seen before a patient who is suffering from severe chest pain and the latter patient suffers an injury that could have been prevented or dies, the hospital or attending staff could be held accountable for the emergency room error.
Misdiagnosis. If a doctor examines a patient but fails to diagnose them with the correct illness, the patient’s condition could worsen. The negligent physician could also incorrectly say a patient has no discernible illness or could diagnose a patient with a condition they do not have. For example, if a patient complains of chest pain and is diagnosed with heartburn and later suffers from a heart attack, the patient was misdiagnosed, and the doctor should be held accountable for the actions.
Delayed Diagnosis. Similar to a misdiagnosis, a delayed diagnosis occurs when a doctor makes an incorrect diagnosis initially, but the patient does eventually receive an accurate diagnosis. The delay allows the condition or disease to worsen because the patient did not receive the proper care in a timely fashion. In most cases, this occurs when a physician neglects to assess a patient in a way that other doctors would have.
Failure to Treat. There are situations when a physician arrives at the proper diagnosis but fails to provide or recommend adequate treatment. This can happen if a doctor is treating too many patients and chooses to release individuals too soon, fails to offer follow-up care, or doesn’t provide the proper specialist referral.
Medical Product Liability. There are individuals who rely on medical devices, like heart valves and hip replacements. In the event a faulty medical device does not work as promised, patients are likely to become injured. Manufacturers are supposed to ensure their devices are safe and effective. They can be held accountable for something that was poorly designed or tested improperly.
Medication Errors. There are a number of individuals involved in the medication process. After a doctor assesses a patient’s needs and checks for interactions with other medicines, they will prescribe a medication. The script will be sent to the pharmacist, who is supposed to fill the prescription properly. Nurses typically administer the medication. If errors occur anywhere during that chain, a patient is likely to experience adverse reactions or their condition will not improve.
If you were injured by a physician, nurse, or other hospital employee in a different way, you may still be able to take legal action. We can examine the validity of your claim and conduct an investigation to determine what steps you should take.
The Consequences of Medical Negligence
While the initial consequences of a hospital mistake are the injuries a person is tasked with recovering from, the damage does not stop there. Victims of medical mistakes are likely to suffer physically, emotionally, and financially.
The most common injuries resulting from physician errors include birth defects, chronic pain, disfigurement, and disability. Victims are likely to experience extended recovery times that impact their ability to be gainfully employed. Additional procedures or surgeries can also put patients at risk for developing hospital-related infections or other complications.
If a person is unable to work and their medical bills keep piling up, the financial stress can take its toll on an entire family. While recovering, victims of negligence shouldn’t have to worry about piling expenses or putting food on the table. With the right lawyer from Baltimore, you’ll be on your way to receiving full and fair compensation to pay for the expenses related to the incident.
Medical mistakes are also likely to take a toll on a person’s psyche. Being injured by a party who you are supposed to be able to explicitly trust can bring about feelings of anxiety, depression, and mistrust. It’s important to know that in addition to the economic expenses compensation can cover, you may also be eligible for monetary awards for pain and suffering and loss of consortium.
What to Do If You’re a Victim of Medical Malpractice
If you believe you are the victim of a doctor’s negligence, you may be wondering where to turn. First, it’s crucial to protect your personal health. Cease receiving care from the physician in question and work with a new doctor to determine how best to proceed based on your physical state. You do not need to give your previous physician a reason as to why you are changing. It’s important to follow the new doctor’s treatment plan to improve your health and benefit your case.
While building a strong case is something your legal team can do, it will help if you can gather evidence as soon as possible. You’ll want to request copies of your medical records. Make sure you have records of everything that was done by your previous doctor or the health care facility. You’ll also want to document as much as you can remember of the experience you believe caused your injury. Keep track of who was involved, what happened, and what you believe went wrong. Keep an accurate log of your symptoms, as well.
Once you are ready, it’s best to contact a law firm. If you are in Baltimore or the surrounding areas, we can help you start your legal journey. We will explain your rights to you and help you hold the guilty doctor or hospital responsible for your injuries.
Finding a Lawyer Who Specializes in Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice cases are often complex, especially considering the number of unique state laws discussed above. As such, it’s crucial to find a legal team willing and capable to invest the time and effort your case will need to succeed.
You’ll want to make sure that your lawyer has represented medical malpractice victims in the past. At Belsky, Weinberg & Horowitz, LLC, we have taken on a number of clients who have been wronged by negligent physicians and hospitals. While researching the firm’s background, you should also take a look at how they’ve been reviewed by their past clients. This will give you an idea of their success rate and how they handle this specialized area of law.
It’s also imperative to hire a medical malpractice attorney who is understanding of the fact that not all claims are alike. You’ll want your lawyer to evaluate your case based only on your case, so they can tailor a strategy that will work best.
Once you’ve hired your legal representation, keep an eye out for possible signs they might not be the best for you. If they are consistently late, are difficult to understand, seem bothered by your questions, or lose important pieces of your case, you might not receive the outcome you deserve. The right legal team will always answer your questions and make sure you are apart of everything that goes on regarding you claim.
Our Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers understand how traumatic it can be to be injured by someone in the health care field. When you put your wellbeing into the hands of someone who is trusted to care for you and they breach that trust, you deserve compensation for what you’ve been through. If you’re thinking about pursuing legal action or want to go over the merit of your claim, contact our firm today. We’ll provide you with a free initial consultation and help you decide how to proceed.