You might be considering filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in Maryland if you believe you were harmed as a result of a health care provider's medical negligence. At the outset, you should know that medical malpractice cases are very complicated and difficult for injured patients to win. So you'll almost always need to find a good medical malpractice attorney to help you navigate the process.
Even so, it will help if you understand the basic rules for medical malpractices cases. This article gives an overview of the Maryland laws that could affect your medical malpractice case, including the time limits for filing a claim, when you'll need an expert's certificate about the validity of your claim, rules about arbitration of these cases, and limits on the amount of compensation you may receive even if you win your case.
A "statute of limitations" is a law that sets a deadline for filing a lawsuit. Like many states, Maryland has a specific statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases. You must file a claim by the earlier of the following deadlines:
(Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc., § 5-109 (2021).)
Although Maryland's medical malpractice statute of limitations has special deadlines for certain cases involving patients who were younger than 11 or 16 when they were injured, the Maryland Court of Appeals has ruled that those deadlines violate the Maryland Declaration of Rights. Instead, the court held that in all cases involving patients who were minors at the time of the alleged medical malpractice, the "clock" for the statute of limitations is paused (or "tolled," in legalese) until the patient turns 18. (Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc., § 5-109 (2021); Piselli v. 75th Street Medical, 808 A.2d 508 (Md. Ct. App. 2002).)
The statute of limitations is also tolled in some other circumstances, including while the injured patient is mentally incapacitated or when the defendant health care provider is out of state. (Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc., §§ 5-201, 5-205 (2021).)
Within 90 days after you file the initial claim, you must file a certificate from a qualified medical expert confirming both of the following:
However, the judge may change or waive this expert-certification requirement, if you've made a written request for the change and have provided a good reason for your request. Otherwise, your claim will be dismissed if you don't file the certificate on time. (Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc., §§ 3-2A-04, 3-2C-02 (2021).)
Maryland has a special set of procedural requirements for any medical malpractice claims that involve more than $30,000 in damages (the losses experienced as a result of the medical error). First, you must file your claim (and the expert certification) with the state's Health Care Alternative Dispute Resolution Office rather than directly with the court.
As a general rule, your claim will then go to arbitration. However, you (or the defendant health care provider) may choose to waive arbitration. You must file the written election to waive arbitration no later than 60 days after all defendants have filed their expert certifications. Then within the next 60 days, you must file your complaint (along with a copy of the arbitration waiver) with the court. If you miss that 60-day filing deadline, your case will most likely be dismissed. (Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc., §§ 3-2A-02, 3-2A-04, 3-2A-06B (2021).)
If your claim goes to arbitration, either you or the defendant may reject the arbitration award and file an action in court to have the award reviewed. The judge (or jury) will presume that the award is accurate unless proven otherwise. If you reject the arbitration award and don't win a more favorable ruling in court, you will have to pay the defendant's costs for the court proceeding. (Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc., § 3-2A-06 (2021).)
Maryland, like many other states, limits how much money you may receive in compensation for your damages. However, the cap only applies to noneconomic damages like pain and suffering, not to economic damages like medical bills or lost income. For cases involving injuries that happened in 2021, the limit is $845,000 for all claims connected to the same injury. The cap increases by $15,000 every year, so you can subtract that amount per year to calculate the limit for pre-2021 injuries, or add $15,000 per year for later injuries.
In medical malpractice cases involving a patient that died and two or more claimants, the limit is somewhat higher: 125% of the regular cap. (Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc., § 3-2A-09 (2021).)
States have different rules for allocating compensation when there's shared blame for a personal injury like medical malpractice. Most states use some form of what's known as comparative negligence, a rule that reduces compensation to injured people who were partly at fault for their injuries.
In contrast, Maryland continues to recognize the historical—and controversial—doctrine of contributory negligence. Under this rule, if a judge or jury finds that you were at all responsible for any portion of your injuries—such as by not complying with doctor's orders about activities after surgery—you won't be able to receive any compensation, even if the doctor's negligence was responsible for 99% of your injuries. Maryland courts have continued to uphold this rule, as long as the legislature doesn't take action to change it. (See Coleman v. Soccer Ass'n of Columbia, 69 A.3d 1149 (Md. Ct. App. 2013).)