Lawyers are sometimes contacted by former patients who suffered terrible injuries at hospitals or clinics. When we how long ago they were hurt, they may say four years ago. Sadly, when patients leave it too long to sue, the statute of limitations on medical malpractice claims in Maryland comes into play. This may run out of time to sue.

The statute of limitations on medical malpractice claims in Maryland is very important. No matter how strong your case or how badly a hospital treated you, you have no legal redress if you run out to time. Some patients don’t realize this. They try to soldier on and hope they will get better. Then, at some point in their lives, they suffer a setback and realize they should have sought compensation from a hospital or a doctor. Often it’s too late. Maryland medical malpractice lawyer Randolph Rice describes the effect of the statute of limitations on medical malpractice claims in Maryland.

If you believe you were harmed by a doctor, a nurse, an anesthesiologist, a GP, a pharmacist, or another medical professional, you should be mindful of the statute of limitations deadline. Don’t wait until the last minute when the clock is ticking. Medical malpractice cases are notoriously complicated. If you talk to a lawyer for the first time a few weeks before the deadline expires, he or she may not have enough time to gather relevant evidence and evaluate your case. Contact a Baltimore medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible after your injury when memories are fresh and its easier to obtain evidence.

Deadline for Filing a Medical Malpractice Claim in Maryland

The deadline for most personal injury lawsuits is fairly straightforward. The lawsuit must be filed within three years of the act that caused the injury, whether it’s a car wreck or a fall. Maryland allows longer than many states, but three years goes fast.

This can be particularly detrimental to a victim in a medical malpractice case. While you know if you had a car crash, you may not realize a doctor made a wrong diagnosis or left a surgical sponge inside you for months or even years. Two rules in Maryland help the victims of medical mistakes. They are:

The Continuous Treatment Rule

If the patient is being treated for an ongoing condition, the statute of limitations time period starts at the end of the course of treatment. This is important because patients can undergo treatment for conditions like cancer over several years. It would be unfair for a hospital to argue the statute of limitations began at the time the doctor made an error early in treatment.

The Rule on Discovery

If a surgeon leaves an instrument or a surgical sponge in a patient, the victim may not realize the clinician made an error at the time of the operation. Most surgeries are conducted without complications and patients generally trust medical professionals. The patient often only realizes the mistake weeks or months later when telltale symptoms arise. Another example of the discovery rule is if an oncologist spots a tumor in a patient. It could be cancerous but he fails to inform the patient or other medical professionals. Three years, later, the patient is diagnosed with cancer.  In some states, the statute of limitations would have expired, meaning the patient was unable to sue the doctor for failing to diagnose cancer. In this case, the victim would have three years from the date that the hospital diagnosed her cancer. However, a patient should be aware that medical malpractice lawsuits must be filed within five years of that date of injury, notwithstanding the rule of discovery. The hospital might argue the patient only has two years to bring a lawsuit.

The example raises a very real question at to what constitutes an injury. Does a failure to diagnose a cancer amount to an injury or does a surgeon have to cause physical harm?

The justices considered this question in Edmonds v. Cytology Services of Maryland Inc., a 1995 case in the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland. This was a tragic medical malpractice action. A woman died in her 30s in 1990 following a misdiagnosis that missed her cancer in 1983. The hospital argued the misdiagnosis constituted the injury. Therefore, the statute of limitations to sue had run out. The judges disagreed the misdiagnosis injury was the same as an injury under the statute of limitations. They ruled an injury was not ‘committed’ unless, “as a proximate result of the wrongful act, the patient sustains damages.”

Obviously, cases in which a surgeon botches an operation are more cut and dry examples of an injury. Maryland’s discovery rule means the clock does not start ticking toward the statute of limitations cutoff until the victim knows of the harm or should have known of the harm. Maryland assumes the victim should seek help if he or she experiences discomfort or pain. Failure to do so can mean missing the window to file a lawsuit. If you underwent surgery or another medical procedure and something feels wrong, it’s incumbent on you to get checked out.

Suing a Doctor Errors and Mistakes in Maryland

As a rule of thumb, you must bring medical malpractice lawsuits within five years of the date of the injury or three years from the date when the injury was reasonably discoverable.

What Is the Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice Claims in Maryland for Minors?

The law regarding time limits for minors is different in Maryland. The statute of limitations on claims for children does not begin to run until the minor reaches 11 years of age. If the case involves a foreign object left in a minor, the minor has until the age of 16 to file suit under Maryland medical malpractice law.

Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death from Medical Malpractice in Maryland

On occasions, the mistake of a doctor, a specialist, a nurse, an anesthesiologist or another medical professional leads to the death of a patient. The statute of limitations in the cases is typically three years from the date of death. Under wrongful death actions in Maryland, the estate or family members of the deceased may sue for medical expenses, and pain endured by the decedent. The loved ones may sue for pain and suffering caused by the loss of the decedent.

In the case of Susan Mummert, et al. v. Massoud B. Alizadeh, lawyers for the doctor argued the medical malpractice rather than the wrongful death statute of limitations should apply in a medical misdiagnosis case. The court ruled Maryland’s wrongful death statute was the relevant legislation and the family of the dead woman had three years to sue from the date of her death.

Talk to a Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyer About Your Case

Few things are as devastating as suffering a hospital negligence injury. You were admitted to the care of doctors, consultants, and nurses to get better but you ended up with potentially-life threatening complications. If you or a loved one has been injured through medical malpractice, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible to fund out about your rights. The impact of medical malpractice can be emotionally, physically, and financially devastating to you or your family. You deserve justice from the medical professional or facility that harmed you. Please contact Maryland medical malpractice lawyer Randolph Rice at the Law Offices of Randolph Rice at (410) 431-0911.