During the course of our work as Maryland and Baltimore County injury lawyers over the last two decades and counting, we've met so many nice families and individuals who needed our legal help to get through some very difficult situations. Often it's because they went out one day and through no fault of their own, they got injured -- or killed -- in a traffic accident.
Other times, the cause of their injuries, or even their death, is due to medical malpractice. And in those types of personal injury cases, the cause is often not as clear cut as in auto accident or Maryland work accident cases. It is not always a single event that caused their injuries, disabilities, or wrongful death.
Medical malpractice or negligence often occurs as the result of the poor judgments and/or ill actions of more than one professional, over time, possibly at more than one institution. It can be a complex sequence of events leading up to a patient not being cured or helped, but instead, being permanently harmed. It can involve prescription error, surgical error, misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose, and failure to provide standard levels of care.
Maryland Medical Error and the Law of Contributory Negligence
As we've written about regarding car and truck accidents, Maryland has a contributory negligence law that says if you, the victim, are even a small fraction responsible for the cause of your accident -- your insurance claim can be denied. This also applies to medical malpractice in Maryland.
Say you have bad headaches, but you don't see a doctor for six months. The doctor says, "It's probably nothing" and sends you home with Tylenol. The headaches get worse and you return a month later. The physician delays another couple weeks in ordering you an MRI. Bad news: The test shows you have brain cancer. However, you'd have a hard time meeting your burden of proof simply because you didn't seek treatment in a reasonable timeframe. It doesn't sound fair, but that's the law of contributory negligence in Maryland. In the eyes of the state, you fooled around while Rome was burning.
The best advice: Don't doodle with your health care decisions. And if you think you may have suffered permanent injury due to the actions of medical professionals, consult an experienced Maryland medical malpractice law firm. Here are several important points to remember regarding almost any contemplated malpractice claim:
- Malpractice claims require expert testimony from other medical professionals to prove liability. Without an expert (or frequently several experts), you cannot prove your claim.
- There are also frequently issues of "informed consent" and patients' understanding that all medical procedures involve risk.
- Maryland has a statute of limitations for filing malpractice lawsuits. If you miss the statute, you are forever barred from pursuing your claim.
- An unfavorable outcome isn't necessarily malpractice, as even doctors cannot guarantee results.
The bottom line with any contemplated malpractice claim is that you need to retain legal counsel early in the process, and most certainly before contacting physicians, hospitals, nursing homes and their insurance carriers. Also, find an attorney that you like and can communicate effectively with. It’s going to be a long haul, and you need to be comfortable with your partner in the process.
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