Medical malpractice cases are known to be some of the most complex and challenging to prove. These cases require filing more documents than other personal injury claims, and plaintiffs must provide testimony regarding the standard of care from credible experts. A great deal of medical terminology must be explained in terms the average jury member can understand.
In addition, patients are going up against hospitals with teams of lawyers bent on protecting the institution’s reputation. If there is a chance of showing that the victim played any part in their injury or illness, the defendant will push that argument to demonstrate contributory negligence in a medical malpractice case.
Here is what you need to know about how the pure contributory negligence rule applies to medical malpractice cases in Maryland.
Contributory vs. Comparative Negligence
Contributory and comparative negligence are often used interchangeably, but the legal ramifications are very different. For contributory negligence, if the plaintiff bears any responsibility whatsoever for their injury, they cannot recover any compensation.
With comparative negligence laws, the plaintiff’s part in the harm must fall below a specific threshold, usually 50% or less. Below that point, their damage award is reduced by the same amount. Above it, they cannot recover any damages.
Contributory Negligence in Maryland for Medical Malpractice Cases
Maryland uses contributory negligence for all personal injury cases, including medical malpractice claims. This means that if the patient played any part in making their condition or injury worse, they are barred from recovering any damages. However, an accomplished medical malpractice attorney can employ many techniques to strengthen a case on behalf of their client and improve their chances for compensation.
How a Patient’s Negligence May Contribute to a Case
In a medical malpractice case, the patient is typically suing their healthcare provider for negligence that led to their injuries. A common defense from the practitioner’s side is to claim the patient’s negligence contributed to their harm. A patient can be negligent by providing false information about their health history or failing to follow their healthcare provider’s instructions. If they lie to the provider about the nature of their injuries or engage in activities that worsen their health condition or injury, they may be considered negligent.
Another example is when a patient sues their provider for a delayed diagnosis, but they fail to show up for multiple appointments. Because they contributed to the negligence, their claim is invalid in Maryland. This means that even a patient who is only 1% responsible for their injuries is completely barred from recovering any damages.
The Last Clear Chance Doctrine
It may seem that patients who have been harmed by medical malpractice have little chance of winning their cases. Contributory negligence sets a very high bar to clear. However, Maryland law has a loophole that can be helpful for many plaintiffs, called the last clear chance doctrine.
Your medical malpractice attorney will take every measure to nullify your liability in your case. However, if this is more challenging, they may develop arguments based on the last clear chance doctrine. This approach is founded on evidence demonstrating the healthcare provider’s failure to act on the last apparent opportunity to avoid injury to the patient.
Even if the patient contributed to the negligence, there is a chance they can receive damages if they can prove that the doctor had the last clear chance to prevent the injury. This requires a robustly prepared case with highly-credentialed and credible expert witnesses.
Expert Testimony Is Critical in Your Medical Malpractice Case
Medical malpractice cases are extremely difficult to win for the plaintiff since every medical interaction is completely unique. The victim must show that their healthcare provider failed to meet the required duty of care in the specific situation. Demonstrating this requires testimony from qualified experts.
Maryland law mandates that experts providing testimony are licensed professionals with experience and training in the same field as the defendant. They must be knowledgeable in the standard of care for your injury or illness. These experts must be able to conclusively testify that the doctor or other provider failed to behave in a way that a reasonable practitioner would in the same situation.
Obtaining a Certificate of Merit
Medical malpractice cases are not filed in the same way as other personal injury cases. To avoid clogging the courts with baseless lawsuits, Maryland law requires that plaintiffs submit a certificate of merit within 90 days of filing their legal action. This certificate includes statements from a qualified expert who has assessed the victim’s claims regarding the alleged malpractice. The expert must indicate they agree with the argument that the provider committed negligence.
Statute Of Limitations for Maryland Medical Malpractice Claims
The law requires that legal actions must be filed in a timely manner to secure appropriate compensation for victims and to protect defendants from excessively long intervals to be held accountable. The statute of limitations dictates these time periods, and failing to meet the deadline for your type of case could result in you losing the chance to seek justice in the courts.
In Maryland, you must file most medical malpractice claims between three and five years after you discover or should have discovered the injury. The exact timeline depends on the nature of the harm caused to you, and your attorney can determine how long you have, based on your situation. It can take a lot of work and research to gather all the evidence needed for your claim, so it is essential to start working with an experienced lawyer as soon as possible.
There are different rules when minors are involved in a malpractice suit. The statute of limitations begins at age 18 and allows them until age 21 to file their claim. These are general guidelines, so speak with your attorney to understand the specifics of your case.
Finally, if you or your loved one passes away due to their provider’s malpractice, the survivors can file a wrongful death within three years from the date of death. The personal representative can file on behalf of the decedent’s estate can file a survivor action, and the family can file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Contact The Snyder Law Group if You Have Suffered Injuries as a Result of Medical Malpractice
The Snyder Law Group, LLC, proudly represents clients throughout Maryland and Washington, D.C. Our experienced Baltimore medical malpractice attorneys are here to assist you or your loved ones after you have been harmed by negligent healthcare providers.
We understand your frustration in dealing with insurance companies and defense lawyers who try to avoid the consequences of their wrongful actions. We stand ready to investigate and litigate your medical malpractice case, as we have done for many clients before you. Contact us to schedule a free initial consultation and learn more about your options.