Senate Bill 30 is currently progressing through the Maryland State Senate, which potentially modifies rules involving the qualifications of medical experts used in claims of medical malpractice. A qualified medical expert, according to current law, is subject to what is often referred to as the “20 percent rule.” The professional may only qualify if he or she devotes less than 20% of their work each year to providing testimony or serving as a witness in civil litigation.
Medical malpractice claims are largely decided on whether the defendant provided medical care that was consistent with the acceptable standards in that particular field of medicine; therefore, it is important that the expert is actively working in this realm of practice to be qualified to make a just evaluation.
Those who initiate an action against a provider for malpractice are required to present documentation within 90 days of filing showing that a qualified medical expert has reviewed the basis for the claim and found it to have merit. Gene Ransom III, who leads the Maryland Medical Society, issued an opinion recently concerning the pending legislative action. He explained that in 1980 and in 2004, the medical community faced enormous premiums for malpractice insurance.
The General Assembly later intervened to better stop frivolous claims by requiring that a clearly qualified medical expert affirm that claims had validity. Ransom feels that Senate Bill 30 would be a regression that may lead to instability and potentially lower quality healthcare for citizens.
The plaintiff initiates a claim by filing a complaint in the court of jurisdiction. A complaint must contain the allegations with a clear explanation of facts and the relief that is being pursued. Maryland statute states that claims filed after July 1, 1986, also impose a requirement on the defendant if liability is disputed. They have 120 days to present a certified expert's assertion that the defendant was compliant with the care standards or that the defendant's acts were not the cause of the injuries cited in the claim.
Expert witnesses are a critical aspect of medical malpractice actions. The plaintiff's counsel must secure an expert to affirm that grounds for a suit exist in order to proceed. The expert for the plaintiff must be capable of simplifying the concept of the standard of care that applies to medical practitioners in a manner that a jury will understand. This expert must have engaged in relevant clinical practice, consulting, or education within the last five years.
Plaintiffs generally face a greater challenge in securing expert witnesses that meet the necessary requirements. Although there are agencies focused on sourcing expert witnesses, many medical professionals are hesitant to work on behalf of those bringing a suit against someone who may be a colleague. Medical providers typically pay for medical malpractice insurance and are very cognizant of the threat of such claims. Many simply do not wish to feel that they are contributing to the advancement of malpractice litigation.