Medical professionals take an oath to provide due care to all their patients. When that care falls short of this standard, you or a loved one can be left facing your worst nightmare. An injury or death arising from the negligence of a healthcare provider is called medical malpractice.
If you think a healthcare provider’s negligence has injured you or a loved one, contact a Maryland medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. Medical malpractice lawyers can analyze your case to determine if the healthcare provider’s actions (or inactions) amounted to medical malpractice.
This article will discuss an important aspect of medical malpractice, the statute of limitations — how long you have to bring a claim against a medical provider for negligent medical care. It will also give medical malpractice examples and show how the statute of limitations applies to those cases.
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What is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice lawsuits are based on the law of negligence. Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider’s care falls below the acceptable standard. The following are the elements you need to show to prove a medical malpractice claim:
- Duty: You must prove that the healthcare provider had a duty to you or your loved one. It is generally easy to prove the existence of a doctor-patient relationship.
- Breach: You must describe the standard of care that the healthcare provider owed you or your loved one. You must then prove that the healthcare provider’s actions strayed from this accepted standard of care or that the healthcare provider failed to meet it.
- Causation: You must prove that the healthcare provider’s breach of duty was a cause of your or your loved one’s injuries.
- Injury: You must prove that you or your loved one has suffered actual physical, financial, and/or emotional harm.
Who is Considered a Healthcare Provider?
A healthcare provider is defined as one of the following:
- Medical daycare center
- Hospice care program
- Assisted living program
- Freestanding ambulatory care facility
- Registered or licensed practical nurse
- Licensed certified social worker-clinical
- Physical therapist (licensed or authorized in Maryland)
Statue of Limitations for Medical Malpractice
There are time limits for you to pursue a medical malpractice claim. These time limits are called “The Statute of Limitations”. In Maryland, the statute of limitations for a medical malpractice claim is set forth in a part of the law called Maryland Courts and Judicial Proceedings Section 5-109.
Statute of Limitation Rules
Pursuant to Maryland Courts and Judicial Proceedings Section 5-109, the general rule is that you have three years from the date the negligent event occurred to bring a medical malpractice claim. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule.
Sometimes, an injury from a medical event does not reveal itself immediately. So, we have“the discovery rule” which basically allows for a claim to be brought after the three year deadline if it can be shown that “a reasonable person” would not have discovered the harm before the plaintiff did.
For example, suppose on August 19, 2022, John Smith goes to the doctor for pain on the right side of his back. The doctor directs him to a physical therapist and recommends regular exercise. Five months later, on January 7, 2023, John goes to a second doctor for persistent back pain. He is diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on his right kidney that has also spread to his left kidney. The doctor said the tumor on the right kidney was there on August 19, 2022.
John has three years from the date of discovery of his kidney cancer to file a medical malpractice claim against the first doctor for his failure to investigate the back pain further and diagnose the kidney tumor. This deadline is January 7, 2026.
But, the law is never that simple. Maryland’s Medical Malpractice Law goes on to place a limit on the discovery rule. This limitation states that you have five years from the date when the healthcare provider’s negligence occurred to bring a medical malpractice suit or three years from the date of discovery, whichever is earlier.
Take the same example. Suppose John went to the second doctor for his back pain on January 7, 2025. John only has until August 19, 2027, to file a medical malpractice claim, not January 7, 2028.
Why? Because the statute calls for the earlier of five years from the date of the injury and three years from the date of discovery of the injury.
Rules for Minors
For minors, the statute of limitations is generally extended until 3 years after the child reaches the age of 18.
Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations
Unfortunately, some medical malpractice cases end in the death of the patient. If you lost a loved one and think the healthcare provider was negligent, you have three years from the date of death to file a wrongful death case.
For example: Suppose Karen Smith died on September 4, 2022, due to the failure of the hospital to diagnose a heart attack. In that case, her family has three years — until September 4, 2025 — to file a wrongful death claim against the hospital.
Contact a Maryland Truck Accident Lawyer Today
Statute of limitations laws are final. Very rarely are exceptions made. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury and believe your healthcare provider is at fault, contact D’Amore Personal Injury Law today for a free consultation.
Our medical malpractice attorneys have vast amounts of experience handling medical malpractice cases. Let them review your case now so you can focus on making a full recovery and living a productive life.