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My Back Surgery was Bad: Can I File a Malpractice Lawsuit in Maryland?

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PERSONAL INJURY

A bad back can make life miserable, and in some cases, it can only be repaired by surgery. But what if the surgeon makes a mistake, leaving you in worse shape than before? You may be in constant pain and unable to work Fortunately, if you live in Maryland, you do have legal recourse. With the help of a skilled lawyer, you can win a malpractice case. The money can't replace what you lost, but it can make your life easier as you move forward.

Best Legal Scenario

To win a medical malpractice suit in Maryland, your case has to meet certain standards. Suppose that the back surgery you had last year went wrong due to a doctor's error, one that deviated from standard of care. Perhaps your doctor used an unconventional surgical method or left you under anesthesia too long. If you have hard evidence of this mistake, you can sue your doctor and perhaps the hospital for malpractice.

If the doctor's insurer feels you have a strong case, they may offer a settlement. If you and your attorney are not happy with the offer, you can take the case to court where a jury may award you both compensatory damages and punitive damages. In some cases, you will receive a large monetary settlement.

Winning a malpractice case in Maryland is not always so simple, however. You have to follow certain procedures in order to have your case heard. Plus, you never know what kind of damages a jury might return. That' s why it is crucial for you to hire an experienced malpractice attorney.

Statute of Limitations

There is no national statute of limitations. Each state adopts their own, but Maryland's law is similar to limits in many other states. Your claim must be filed within five years of when the injury occurred or three years after the injury is discovered. Some sufferers may not learn for months or years that they have been the victims of medical malpractice. So even if you do not learn of your injury until five years after your surgery, you'll still have three more years to file a lawsuit.

The clock doesn't start running on minors until age 11 or age 16, depending on the nature of their injuries.

Legal Standards for Medical Malpractice

In Maryland, you must prove that your lawsuit meets certain criteria concerning your injuries and your own responsibility for them.

Certificate of Merit

After you have filed your lawsuit, you have 90 days to provide the court with a Certificate of Merit. In most cases, this means you must provide, in writing, an opinion from a qualified physician who has reviewed your medical records. This physician must state that you were more likely than not injured by your surgeon or other doctor. This opinion will probably address standard of care, which refers to the usual medical practices that most doctors follow.

The physician who provides this Certificate of Merit should have all the proper credentials and recent experience teaching and practicing medicine. The court will frown upon a doctor who spends most of their time testifying in malpractice lawsuits.

In the past, Maryland malpractice suits came with mandatory arbitration, a way to settle out of court, with the arbitration judge's opinion being final. Now, your case can go straight to court if you desire. Both choices carry their own set of risks.

Contributory Negligence

Maryland is one of the few states that still has contributory negligence. This means that if you are found to have contributed to your injury in any way, you will lose your lawsuit. Even if the doctor was almost completely to blame, you can't recover any damages if the court finds you are 1% responsible. This standard is a tough one, which is why you need to consult with an expert on Maryland law about your injuries. Unless your attorney has dealt with this type of negligence before, they will not be effective in your case.

Settlement Expectations

Like many people, you have probably watched a number of television legal shows where the injured plaintiff takes home $200,000 in compensatory damages and 10 million or so in punitive damages. While that scenario is a nice to dream about, it won't happen in Maryland. The state capped its medical malpractice damages at $650,000 in 2009, adding $15,000 to the amount annually. That means a 2019 lawsuit is capped at $800,000. That amount applies to all claims arising from one injury, so your family cannot receive more money for losses they suffered as a result of your operation.

While you won't get rich filing a malpractice lawsuit in Maryland, you can receive enough money to make up for lost wages and to pay for items that will improve your quality of life.

Maryland is a tough state for malpractice victims, but you can win a case, especially if you have a knowledgeable and realistic attorney. If you have been injured as a result of medical negligence, you should seek legal counsel for an evaluation of your case. Many patients are injured each year as a direct result of mistakes on the part of their physician. If you are one of these people, you deserve financial relief.

Do not prejudge your own case. People do win their malpractice suits in Maryland, despite the state's strict standards. Be certain to retain all medical documentation and completely follow your attorney's instructions.

About the Author

I'm a freelancer who can write in many different formats and for many different business needs. My work background includes stints as a high school English teacher, college composition instructor, medical journal issue manager, small town paper editor, radio continuity director, furniture salesperson, and customer service representative. My somewhat colorful work history gives me insight into many different industries and helps me to adapt to a variety of different client needs.

Beth W is a freelance writer who writes about lifestyle and travel.

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