Medical malpractice is the nation’s third-leading cause of death, according to none other than the American Medical Association. As frightening as this statistic is, the mere occurrence of an undesirable surgical outcome does not constitute medical malpractice – and sometimes it takes an experienced medical malpractice attorney to tell the difference. At Henderson Law, that is exactly what we have been doing for years now.
Types of Surgical Errors
A list of all possible surgical errors would probably fill a library. Listed below are some of the most common ones, including “never events.”
- Wrong side surgery (removing the wrong kidney, for example)
- Wrong patient surgery
- Leaving a foreign object inside the patient after surgery (a sponge, for example)
- Performing the wrong procedure
- Implanting the wrong medical device
- Incorrect incisions
- Anesthesiology errors
- Nerve damage
Of course, a surgical error may well be more subtle than these. And the more subtle they are, the more difficult they are to prove.
Causes of Surgical Errors
Almost every surgical error is the result of a different chain of events. Thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding surgical errors, however, has yielded the following list of the most common causes of surgical errors:
- Inadequate planning: Surgery must be carefully planned to maximize the chances of success. Of course, in certain emergency situations, there may be no time for this.
- Miscommunication: A nurse misidentifies a patient to a doctor, for example.
- Fatigue: Doctors work long hours, and some operations take many hours to complete. Fatigue can impair judgment.
- Substance abuse: Believe it or not, on rare occasions, certain doctors operate on their patients while intoxicated. The doctor may be an alcoholic, for example, or may have to take amphetamines to stay awake at work.
A medical malpractice claim will typically incorporate a theory of causation as part of the complaint.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations sets a deadline for filing a medical malpractice claim. Once the deadline passes without a lawsuit being filed, the claim is dead for all intents and purposes.
- In Maryland, the deadline is the earlier of either (i) five years after the date that the malpractice/injury was committed, or (ii) three years from the date the injury was discovered.
- In D.C., the deadline is three years after the date that the plaintiff knows of the injury, its cause, and some evidence of wrongdoing.
See the FAQ section below for a description of some of the exceptions to the general deadline.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the discovery rule?
The discovery rule is an exception to the statute of limitations that allows a victim more time to file a lawsuit if he or she reasonably did not know of the injury, did not know the cause of it, or did not know the source of it until some time had passed since the malpractice that caused the injury. Once the victim knows of or reasonably should know of the claim, the statute of limitations begins to run.
In a Maryland medical malpractice case, however, the discovery rule will not extend the statute of limitations past the five-year deadline after injury, as the deadline will only shift to three years after discovery if the five year deadline does not pass first. For example, if a patient discovers his injury one year after the surgery, he would be granted three more years from that point to file his claim. If the patient discovered his injury four years after surgery, he would only have one year remaining to file his claim since the five-year deadline would pass sooner. In D.C, the deadline is also three years after discovery, regardless of when the injury was discovered. Under D.C.’s discovery rule, a patient would be granted the full three years to file their claim after discovery.
Is there a statute of limitations exception for child patients?
Yes. In D.C., the statute of limitations on case where the patient was under 18 will not begin to run until that patient’s 18th birthday. This means that the patient will have at a minimum until his 21st birthday to file a lawsuit. Maryland applies more liberal rules to children as well, but they are too complex to detail here.
What is the “Certificate of a Qualified Expert”?
In Maryland (but not in D.C.), a Certificate of a Qualified Expert is a sworn statement by a medical expert that, in the expert’s opinion after reviewing the evidence, the defendant in a medical malpractice complaint failed to meet the applicable standard of care. It must be filed by the plaintiff within 90 days of filing a Statement of Claim in the Health Care Alternative Dispute Resolution Office. Its purpose is to discourage the filing of frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits.
Every Case Is Unique
One profound truth that we have learned through years of handling medical malpractice cases is that no two cases are exactly alike – each involves its own particular nuances. A corollary to this truth is the fact that no two clients are alike, because each brings her own concerns and priorities into a case. For this reason, a cookie-cutter approach to a medical malpractice claim simply won’t do. Instead, we see to it that our approach to your case is as individual as you are.
Contact Us Today
If you are involved in a medical malpractice case, contact Henderson Law, by filling our out online contact page or by calling (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.