The sad truth is that healthcare is a business, and the primary way to drive higher profits is by reducing the amount and quality of care given to patients. When health care decisions and actions become based on saving time and money, it leads to preventable injuries and deaths. When serious injury or death to the patient has occurred due to medical mistakes, negligence, or a flawed policy during the diagnosis, treatment, or follow-up care at medical facilities, this is referred to as medical malpractice.
In addition to the physical and emotional toll experienced by the victims of medical malpractice, there are significant financial losses as well (medical bills, lost income, funeral expenses, etc.). Medical malpractice lawsuits not only help compensate victims for their losses, but help create a financial incentive for health care providers to provide better care. Brown & Barron, a Baltimore-based law firm specializing in cases of medical malpractice, answers some of the most common questions.
1. What are the most common types of medical malpractice?
There are many ways in which a preventable death or serious injury can occur at a hospital. However, if any of the following situations occurred, you should contact a lawyer immediately:
- Hospital errors
- Birth injuries
- Failure to accurately diagnose a serious illness
- Surgical errors
- Medication errors
- Nursing home abuse or malpractice
From misdiagnosis to anesthesia errors, there are dozens of ways that a doctor, nurse, or medical specialist may act in a negligent manner. Some of the most common medical errors include:
- Failing to obtain appropriate and informed consent from a patient
- Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis resulting in injury
- Patient neglect and/or failure to provide proper supervision
- Premature hospital discharge or care transfer
- Prescribing the wrong dose or type of medication
- Using a defective medical device or unsanitary instrument
2. How common is medical malpractice?
According to a 2013 study in the Journal of Patient Safety, it is estimated that between 210,000 to 400,000 people die annually in the U.S. due to medical error. U.S. News reported that medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in the U.S., after heart disease and cancer.
3. How do I know if my situation is medical malpractice?
If the unthinkable occurs at a hospital, it can be difficult to get answers from the hospital, especially if they suspect their own medical mistakes, malpractice, negligence, or flawed hospital policies were involved. You need a law firm that specializes in medical malpractice cases, like Brown & Barron to determine if the doctor or hospital failed to follow the accepted standard of care and whether that failure caused the injury. At Brown & Barron, our dedicated malpractice attorneys fully investigate your claim, consult with physicians and experts in the field of medicine that pertains to your case, and gather evidence to support your claim.
Medical results are never guaranteed, and there are often many risks associated with medical procedures and treatments. However, healthcare professionals have a clear obligation to inform their patients about these risks and take all appropriate precautions to prevent injuries.
4. How long do I have to file a lawsuit in a case of medical malpractice?
The general statute of limitations in Maryland requires that the plaintiff file the lawsuit within three years from the date of the injury. However, if the individual did not know and could not have known of the injury until later, that person may have three years from the date of discovery of the malpractice — but not more than five years from the date of the incident. If malpractice is committed upon children, they have until their 21st birthday to bring a claim. Despite these general rules, there many some legal factors that determine when the clock starts ticking regarding the statute of limitations, so it is best to contact Brown & Barron as soon as you suspect medical malpractice
5. Who do I sue in a case of medical malpractice?
Most often, the defendant will be a doctor, but it can also be caused by a nurse, anesthesiologist, radiologist, midwife, therapist, chiropractor, or another hospital staff member. There may be multiple parties who are liable for your losses. If the person who committed the malpractice is an employee of a hospital, a patient can sue the hospital as well, depending on the situation. If you’re not sure who caused your medical-related injuries, an attorney can help you identify all the liable parties and hold them accountable.
6. Who files the lawsuit in a case of medical malpractice?
If the victim of suspected medical malpractice is still living, only they or their legal representative (parent, guardian, power of attorney, etc.) can file suit. If the person has died due to suspected medical malpractice, the victim’s estate may file a lawsuit for the victim’s pain, suffering, and expenses (e.g., medical bills or funeral expenses), and the victim’s parents, spouse, and children can sue for wrongful death, including economic losses and non-economic losses (e.g., emotional damage).
7. What damages can I recover in a medical malpractice lawsuit?
In personal injury law, “damages” refers to the monetary amounts awarded to an injury victim, whether in a settlement or a verdict. Compensatory damages are intended to “make the plaintiff whole” after suffering from a preventable medical injury, so these awards will typically include compensation for medical bills, lost future wages, and other needs. These damages also include the amount needed to compensate the plaintiff for the pain and suffering (both physical and mental) that they have endured. In Maryland, there is a limit to what you can receive for “non-economic” damages like pain and suffering. Medical malpractice attorneys can help you understand exactly what damages you may be entitled to.
Common compensatory damages in medical malpractice include:
- Past, current, and future medical expenses
- Pain and suffering, both physical and mental
- Lost wages and/or reduced earning potential
- Loss of consortium
8. What is “Informed Consent”?
Informed consent is a fundamental patient right, and while obtaining written or spoken consent from a patient is required in every state, doctors also need to make sure that there is clear communication about a procedure from the very beginning. According to the American Medical Association, doctors must be very careful to assess the patient’s understanding of a medical decision, and they must also convey all relevant information about the patient’s diagnosis and proposed treatment plan.
At the outset of your surgery, treatment, or other medical procedure, you may have been asked to sign a consent form. Even if you freely gave your consent at the time, however, you can still bring a lawsuit when there was a lack of sufficient information beforehand. Additionally, a doctor’s negligence could still entitle you to damages even when your doctor obtained informed consent for the procedure.
9. What if an attorney cannot take my case?
You can report issues related to physician care to the Maryland Board of Physicians (MBP). You can also find out if a complaint has been filed against your physician. You can call the MBP at 410-764-4777 or 1-800-492-6836 or by clicking here.
This site offers legal information, not legal advice. Although we do our best to provide helpful information about your options, your specific needs require specific legal advice, and for that you should consult an attorney. At Brown & Barron, we can help walk you understand your rights.
Our attorneys at Brown & Barron, LLC focus on representing the families who have experienced medical malpractice. We know first-hand how health care facilities function, and just how vulnerable patients are to injuries. If you believe you or a family member has suffered as a result of medical malpractice, we invite you to contact our team as soon as possible to learn more about your rights and options.