Maryland Medical Malpractice Laws
Each state has their own set of medical malpractice laws in place, and it is important for patients to understand those laws and how they could affect their case. The following are the basics of the laws in Maryland.
Medical malpractice cases in Maryland are given a more liberal treatment of the statistical and practical process for resolving medical negligence claims cases that seem to exhibit a strong propensity for favorable plaintiff outcomes. The state of Maryland still imposes certain limitations and restrictions on medical negligence lawsuits. However, plaintiffs enjoy a much more favorable jurisdiction-legal climate under Maryland’s jurisdiction than the majority of other states nationally.
And yet, as of 2016, Maryland is one of only a handful of US states still adhering to the contributory negligence rule framework for determining whether a plaintiff can plausibly recover damage awards. In the state of Maryland, per the contributory negligence theory of tort law, plaintiff claims cases can be barred from recovery of any damage amount in the event of even marginal contributory negligence on behalf of the plaintiff.
However, it is critical to note that any medical malpractice case, whether suspected or in the process of being filed as a lawsuit in Maryland, the case-specific factors of an individual patient’s case, in light of extant state-specific statutory law, will dictate a large part of the Maryland state medical malpractice claims process approach.
Statutes of Limitations Under Maryland Medical Malpractice Law
Maryland has a relatively long three-year statute of limitations for filing medical malpractice claims, but the state of Maryland does impose a five-year statute of repose barring the future filing of medical malpractice claims in Maryland, if not filed within the five (5) year time frame. Even if an injury or other harm reasonably suspected to be linked to medical negligence manifests itself more than five years after a malpractice event, the injured party’s medical malpractice case in Maryland is subject to an absolute dismissal.
For minors, the statute of limitations on claims case filings in the state of Maryland does not begin to run until the minor reaches eleven (11) years of age. In the event of a foreign object incident and a minor, the minor has until the age of sixteen (16) to file suit under Maryland medical malpractice law.
Medical Malpractice Cases in Maryland Rely on a Joint and Several Liability Standard
Under Maryland law, each defendant, if found liable, is responsible for paying an entire judgment if another defendant is unable or unwilling to contribute under the theory of joint and several liabilities.
Medical Malpractice Claims in Maryland Adhere to the Contributory Negligence Standard
Maryland is one of a handful of states that continues to follow the harsh contributory negligence rule of recovery. Under the contributory negligence doctrine, a plaintiff may not recover damages if the trier of fact finds that he or she is in any way liable for his injury. Repeated efforts to change the law have been unsuccessful in the Maryland legislature, and the Maryland Supreme Court upheld the law as constitutional as recently as 2013.
The State of Maryland Caps Noneconomic Damages, But Raises the Cap Annually
Non-economic malpractice damages (non-pecuniary damages) in Maryland were capped by statute at $650,000 in 2009. The Maryland statutory damages cap has increased by $15,000 annually with a statutory cap imposed in Maryland currently standing at $755,000. The Maryland state legislature has addressed possibly expanding the cap further to allow greater noneconomic damages in egregious or catastrophic cases, although no further increases have been adopted to date.
The State of Maryland Does Not Require Mandatory Arbitration, But Parties May Seek Arbitration
Either party may waive arbitration in medical malpractice cases filed after October 1, 2015, under Maryland law. While this change in the law makes arbitration voluntary, if the parties do proceed to arbitration, the panel will apportion damages that may be binding in later court proceedings unless vacated by a court.
Verification is Required for Medical Malpractice Cases in the State of Maryland
Although its laws are friendly to injured parties, Maryland does require a party’s attorney to file a certificate of merit within ninety days of the filing date of a medical malpractice case. This requirement may trip up an injured party, as is illustrated in Wilcox v. Orellano. The injured party, in this case, failed to file the required certificate and voluntarily dismissed her case. She subsequently refilled it after the expiration of the statute of limitations, but the court dismissed her action as being untimely filed even though her first case was filed before the statutory deadline. Had she filed the certificate of merit in her first case, her lawsuit would have gone forward?
Maryland has a relatively open standard for expert testimony in medical malpractice cases. Unlike jurisdictions that limit experts to the particular medical specialty that is in question in a case, Maryland will allow experts who demonstrate knowledge of the standard of care in that specialty.
Medical Malpractice May Fall Under Maryland’s Wrongful Death Statute
Survivors have three (3) years from the date of death of a loved one to bring a wrongful death action under Maryland law. A wrongful death action must be filed the primary beneficiaries of the deceased person, which depending on jurisdiction will include thee spouse, children, or parents of the deceased. Second beneficiaries, which include siblings, nephews, nieces, and cousins, may bring a wrongful death action if primary beneficiaries decline to file suit. In a wrongful death action, Maryland allows for economic damages, such as funeral costs and lost wages, as well as noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering. However, the state caps compensation in wrongful death claims cases at $2 million dollars for non-pecuniary losses incurred by the estate of the deceased.