In Maryland, you cannot just hire an attorney and run off to the courthouse to file your medical malpractice case. Maryland makes you jump through some very specific hoops before you can bring a medical malpractice claim. This is another reason to see an attorney long before the statute of limitations even gets close. Here is the process in a nutshell:
(1) Get Your Medical Records
We prefer that patients get their own records and bring them to us for review. If we send a letter requesting your records, the hospital or doctor’s office will know immediately that somebody is investigating your case. It is very rare for a medical record to go missing or be altered, but why take the chance?
Also, if word gets out an attorney is reviewing your case, the other doctors you treat with will likely be less expressive in their medical records as we would like. If you suffered an act of medical malpractice, you will receive more medical treatment from other doctors after the incident occurs. We are always very interested in what those doctors say about what caused your condition. If they know we are going to read those reports, they will be more careful about what goes in them. This is just human nature. Doctors do not want to end up as witnesses against someone they know. They don’t want to get involved in the legal aspect of your case.
You have an absolute legal right to get your own medical records in Maryland. They do have the right to charge you for those records, but the amount they can charge is limited by state law. It involves a flat fee and a per page copying fee. It goes up every year. Here is a link to a site that keeps it updated.
(2) The Attorney Reviews Your Records
First, we review your records to screen out cases that just do not rise to the level of malpractice. Normally, your medical records will be quite voluminous. It may take a while to review these records. When finished, we will give you an honest answer about our opinion, but the next step involves the much more important opinion.
(3) Another Expert Reviews Your Medical Records
We team up with some of the best medical malpractice attorneys and experts around to make sure you get high quality legal services. If we think you may have a case, we will tell you after the first review. Then we will send your records off to a specialist attorney and/or medical expert to review and tell us whether this is, in fact, a medical malpractice claim.
This does not cost you any extra. We have arrangements with these attorneys where we agree to split the overall attorney’s fee. It does not affect the amount you recover. This arrangement benefits you because we can send your case to the right attorney. The best attorney for your type of malpractice case may be local, or in Washington, or Baltimore, or elsewhere. We know who is who in the legal community. That means you do not have to shop around yourself.
Believe me, you do not want to hire someone who does not specialize in medical malpractice cases. That is one area of law you do not “dabble” in. You either do it exclusively, or you team up with someone who does. We team up. Also, you get to deal primarily with a local law firm (us) during the pendency of your case. And you get a team of lawyers behind you. This arrangement has great benefits for our clients.
(4) Expert Review & Certification
As discussed above, your case must be reviewed by a medical expert familiar with the type of medicine involved in your case. They must be willing to certify, in writing, that your case is a valid medical malpractice case under Maryland law. They must hold this opinion within a reasonable degree of medical probability.
(5) File with the Maryland Health Claims Arbitration Office
Maryland has a special governmental office called the Health Claims Arbitration Office where your attorney must file a claim before filing suit at the Courthouse. This office was designed to cut down on filing medical malpractice lawsuits. It is a hoop that must be jumped through prior to filing a lawsuit at the Courthouse. Part of this filing includes the written expert certification mentioned above. This does keep frivolous medical malpractice cases out of the Maryland court system (which is a good thing!). Technically, there is a provision to go through arbitration, but it can be waived.
(6) File Suit
If your case cannot be settled (and hardly any of these cases are settled without litigation) you must file suit and proceed like a normal court case. You will get a trial date, go through discovery, do depositions, etc. Don’t fear litigation. It is “par for the course” in Maryland medical malpractice cases. For a variety of reasons, these cases do not settle without some litigation. Your attorney can explain why when you get your consultation.