Medical malpractice can be hard to define because it often looks different in every case. One possibility is that a doctor misdiagnoses a patient. While misdiagnoses sometimes happen and are not always malpractice, doctors might be liable if it happens because of negligence.
Generally, doctors may be at fault for a misdiagnosis, although various other medical professionals and even the hospital itself may be liable too. To prove your claims, we need to submit a certificate from a medical expert attesting to the negligence, your medical records, and expert witnesses to explain your records. A misdiagnosis might be considered malpractice if it results from the doctor’s failure to meet standards of care. Damages in these cases can be significant, as you might incur various medical costs in addition to severe pain and suffering. Speak to a lawyer about your case soon because medical malpractice claims must be filed within 5 years unless certain circumstances provide otherwise.
Call our Maryland misdiagnosis lawyers at Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (410) 694-7291 to schedule a free review of your injuries and legal claims.
Who is at Fault for a Misdiagnosis or Failed Diagnosis Under Maryland Law?
In many cases where you suffer sub-par medical care or your doctor does not do everything they should to get you the care you need, your doctor is responsible. In some cases, the injuries and harm you suffered might rest on the shoulders of another medical staff member, such as a nurse or a physician’s assistant. Even still, when nurses or assistants are to blame, the doctors in charge of your care tend to share liability.
With most medical malpractice lawsuits in Maryland, you analyze who was at fault for the injuries and complications you faced by looking at the duties that each party owed you. Doctors owe their patients a duty of reasonable care, meaning they must provide you with care that meets the “standard of care” that other doctors with similar training and experience would provide. If the care they offered fell below those standards, you can usually sue them for medical malpractice, including in cases of wrongful misdiagnosis.
In some cases, the hospital might share some level of blame and fault. Many times, the doctors at a hospital are private practitioners that happen to use the hospital for their own patients. In these cases, the hospital is not usually responsible for the doctor’s errors. However, in cases where the doctor is a hospital employee, you might be entitled to sue the hospital for the errors its employee committed.
You can also sue hospitals for hospital negligence if they mixed up test results, if their lab technicians tainted results, if machines or scanners were improperly calibrated, or if other mistakes in the background caused your misdiagnosis.
Proving a Medical Malpractice Claim for Misdiagnosis in Maryland
When you sue a doctor for a misdiagnosis, our Maryland medical malpractice attorneys must prove that their failure to properly diagnose you fell below the standard of care. You typically need to show that the doctor’s inability to diagnose your condition properly was unreasonable. If other doctors with similar training and experience can testify that they would have been able to effectively diagnose and treat your condition, this can help your case.
Certificate from a Qualified Expert
Maryland law requires all medical malpractice victims to produce a medical expert to certify that their claim is legitimate, and the victim will usually have a similar expert testify in court as part of their case. This certificate from a qualified expert must be filed alongside your complaint for malpractice or shortly after.
The certificate is important because it tells the court that another qualified doctor believes you have a malpractice and negligence claim. Since doctors do not run courts, the judge and court officials rely on certificates from qualified experts to know whether plaintiffs have a valid claim. However, the certificate is not considered definitive proof of malpractice. It only informs the court that you have a valid claim. We still need additional evidence.
One of the most important pieces of evidence in your claim is your medical records. We absolutely need your medical records to prove that the defendant should be held liable for malpractice. First, we need records of the negligent treatment that caused your injuries. Second, we need records from before your injuries to establish what your condition was like before you were harmed by the doctor’s negligence. Third, we need records of the treatment you received after the defendant injured you.
As you can tell, we need extensive records regarding your medical history. Much of these records will come from the hospital where you were injured. If you received subsequent care from a different hospital, we also need to request records from that hospital. Your records might include information about surgery, medication, x-rays, scans, lab results, and any other aspect of your medical care.
Medical records can be very complicated, and we need an expert witness who can explain everything to the jury in a way they will understand. We may need one of your doctors who treated you after the defendant injured you to testify about your injuries and the subsequent care you received. Expert testimony is often necessary in cases where the subject matter is scientific or highly technical.
How Medical Malpractice Might Occur in Maryland
In cases where your doctor barely engaged with you or looked into your symptoms, the doctor’s negligence is more obvious. A doctor who fails to take a patient’s complaints seriously or accuses the patient of overreacting can often miss serious illnesses, injuries, and conditions that can cause serious harm if left untreated.
Doctors might also fail to properly diagnose your condition because they were too stubborn to question their initial hunch. Doctors are typically trained to diagnose patients with more common illnesses over rare ones when presented with symptoms that could match either condition. Still, the doctor should usually run additional tests to rule out other conditions rather than assuming their guess was correct. If your doctor fails to investigate your condition further, you might be able to sue them for malpractice.
The worst types of injuries and complications from misdiagnosis occur when your doctor learns they failed to properly diagnose your condition but then fails to correct their mistakes. In these cases, you may continue to face treatment for a condition you do not have because your doctor refuses to reveal that they made a mistake or that your condition was not as serious as initially assumed.
Damages for Misdiagnosis Lawsuits in Maryland
If your doctor fails to diagnose your condition or mistakenly diagnoses you with another condition, you could face serious injuries and complications. In these cases, you will often undergo additional medical care for the wrong condition, potentially suffering the effects of harmful surgeries and dangerous medication. In cases of misdiagnosis of cancer, you could even face unnecessary chemotherapy, radiation treatment, mastectomy, orchiectomy, and other harmful procedures.
You might also need to seek second opinions before discovering the true diagnosis, which adds additional costs. If your condition worsens, you might also miss work and suffer a decline in your overall health that cannot be reversed.
In most claims for misdiagnosis, you can claim damages for these additional medical care costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, worsened conditions, and the mental stress of not knowing what’s truly wrong with you. If a misdiagnosis led to the death of a loved one, you might also be entitled to additional compensation for the deceased’s funeral and burial costs, lost wages, lost household services, and other damages.
Talk to one of our Maryland personal injury lawyers for help understanding what your claim is worth.
When to File a Medical Malpractice Claim in Maryland
Civil claims, including those for medical malpractice, are bound by statutes of limitation. These statutes impose strict deadlines on when plaintiffs must file their claims or lose their right to sue. For medical malpractice claims, Maryland law, according to Md. Code, Cts. and Jud. Proc., § 5-109(a), requires plaintiffs to file their claims no later than 5 years after the harm was committed or 3 years after the harm was discovered, whichever is later.
This distinction between the date of your injuries and the date you discovered your injuries is crucial. Many victims of medical malpractice do not immediately realize their injuries. For example, a patient might not know they are injured after a surgical procedure because they expect to be in some degree of pain for a while after the surgery. It might not be until weeks, months, or even years later that they realize the surgeon left a sponge inside them.
The statute of limitations works a bit differently for younger plaintiffs. If a victim of medical malpractice was younger than 11 at the time of the injuries, the statute of limitations does not begin to run until their 11th birthday. So, if your child was 5 when they were injured because of a doctor’s negligent care, they might have until they are 16 years old, or 5 years after they turn 11, to file a claim.
Where Do I File My Medical Malpractice Claim in Maryland?
While one might presume that a civil claim is filed in civil court, Maryland treats medical malpractice claims a little differently. Under Md. Code, Cts. and Jud. Proc., § 3-2A-02(a), medical malpractice claims worth more than the limit for concurrent jurisdiction with the District Court are subject to the jurisdiction of the Maryland Health Care Alternative Dispute Resolution Office. The monetary limit for concurrent jurisdiction is $30,000, so any cases with damages in excess of this value must first be submitted to the ADR Office.
If you do not want your case heard by the ADR Office, our Maryland medical malpractice attorneys can help you get your case to court. Once we file your case with the ADR Office, we must submit a written waiver within 60 days after the defendant submits their paperwork.
Most larger claims will be arbitrated unless we choose otherwise. Medical malpractice cases frequently reach damages worth over the monetary limit mentioned above, and arbitration might arise in your case. Talk to your attorney about whether your case is a better fit for court or arbitration.
Call Our Maryland Medical Malpractice Lawyers for Victims of Misdiagnosis
Call Rice, Murtha & Psoras today at (410) 694-7291 to schedule a free review of your case with our Baltimore personal injury lawyers.