Medical Misdiagnosis Claims in Maryland and Washington D.C.
Misdiagnosis is a medical malpractice claim that differs from many other medical malpractice claims in that it is based not on the something that the health care provider did, but on something he didn’t do. It is not hard to imagine how misdiagnosis can result in serious harm or even death. Not all cases of misdiagnosis amount to malpractice, however, and it often takes a skilled personal injury attorney to determine whether or not a given case gives rise to a viable claim.
The Doctor-Patient Relationship
One of the requirements for a medical malpractice claim is a pre-existing doctor-patient relationship. A doctor-patient relationship may not have been formed if, for example, a Good Samaritan who provides first aid at the scene of a car accident happens to be a doctor – although an ordinary negligence claim is still possible under these circumstances. A skilled medical malpractice lawyer can help you determine whether a doctor-patient relationship existed.
Standard of Care
A medical malpractice claim cannot succeed unless the victim proves that the doctor violated the applicable standard of care. The “standard of care” is, of course, higher for a doctor than for other people, because the doctor has received special training that the patient relies upon. A qualified expert in the doctor’s field will be required to give a statement as to the applicable standard of care in a given situation.
Even if the doctor violated the standard of care, a medical malpractice claim will not succeed unless the violation actually caused harm. With some exceptions, a patient cannot recover damages from a misdiagnosis for emotional distress alone. Nevertheless, just because a misdiagnosis did not harm the patient by allowing a disease to progress unchecked, doesn’t mean there were no damages. A misdiagnosis might cause harm by resulting in:
- Unnecessarily aggressive treatment (such as chemotherapy) that causes suffering and expense;
- Unnecessary surgery;
- Unnecessary treatment complications resulting in an increased chance of mortality; or
- Progression of the disease from the point where it was at the time of the misdiagnosis to where it can no longer be treated as effectively or treatment would entail expenses or other side effects that would not have occurred at the time of misdiagnosis.
Damages in a medical misdiagnosis claim can include the following, depending on the circumstances:
- Compensation for medical expenses arising from treatment that would have been unnecessary had an accurate and timely original diagnosis been made
- Lost earnings
- Pain and suffering
- Wrongful death damages to family members of the victim as well as the victim’s probate estate, if misdiagnosis resulted in the death of the patient
- Emotional distress
- Other losses suffered by the patient
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is there a cap on medical malpractice damages?
In Maryland, there is a cap on non-economic damages and past medical expenses. A claim for past medical expenses must be limited to (i) the total amount of past medical expenses paid by the plaintiff, and (ii) the total amount of past medical expenses incurred but not paid by the plaintiff for which the plaintiff is still obligated to pay. Claims for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering are subject to a limit which raises by $15,000 every year. In 2018 the cap was $800,000 (but $1,000,000 for wrongful death claims made by at least two beneficiaries). In 2019 the cap is $815,000 (but $1,018,750 for wrong death claims made by at least two beneficiaries). D.C. law, by contrast, applies no formal cap on damages.
What are “pain and suffering” damages?
“Pain and suffering” damages compensate victims for their physical pain (not the psychological pain of, say, having a disfigurement – although another type of damages is available for that). If, for example, a patient suffers the full progression of a painful disease because it was not diagnosed in time to stop it early, the patient might claim pain and suffering damages. These damages can amount to several times the amount awarded for medical expenses.
Can my case be settled out of court?
Yes, it can be, and judges typically encourage parties to settle out of court. Indeed, a large percentage of medical malpractice claims never proceed to trial. Nevertheless, there are times when it becomes necessary to proceed to trial to achieve a just result. If this happens, the medical malpractice lawyers at Henderson Law are ready to try your case.
Can a nurse or a lab technician be sued for misdiagnosis?
Not in most cases, because the primary care physician is generally considered responsible for proper diagnosis. It may be possible, however, to sue a nurse or lab technician who is independently negligent in their own duties and causes injury from that. For example, it might be possible to sue a lab technician who botches a blood test due to negligence that leads the primary care physician to misdiagnose his patient.
Contact Us Today
At Henderson Law, we occupy an ideal position. We are large enough to possess resources that sole practitioners lack, but we are small enough to offer our clients the personalized attention that mega-firms cannot offer.
If you require the services of a top-tier medical malpractice attorney, contact us online or call (410) 721-1979. We serve clients throughout Maryland (including Baltimore and Annapolis) and Washington D.C.
Henderson Law is accepting new cases in the District of Columbia and Maryland. Henderson Law is willing to take new clients across the State of Maryland, including, but not limited to, new cases arising in the following cities: Annapolis, Crofton, Bowie, Upper Marlboro, Crownsville, Davidsonville, Edgewater, Millersville, Odenton, Severna Park, and Pasadena. Please call Henderson Law for an initial consultation.