Liability for injuries in Maryland medical malpractice cases is determined in a variety of different ways. Sometimes patients are held responsible for contributing to their own injury. When a doctor breaches a standard of care, the doctor can be held liable for a resulting injury. However, patients also have standards they need to follow, and when they breach those standards, they can be held responsible for injuries. Patient fault is calculated differently across the country; some states have strict medical malpractice rules that prohibit the patient from receiving any compensation while other states allow for some compensation proportionally to the medical professional's fault.
Who Determines Fault In Maryland Medical Malpractice Lawsuits?
Fault is usually determined by either a health insurance company or by a jury or judge. Doctors and other health care professionals named in malpractice cases often have their own liability insurance that covers damages owed in malpractice cases. Health insurance companies usually complete an investigation into the case when a patient has been injured. If the insurance company cannot make a decision, a jury or judge will determine fault. The determination of fault will be different for every case, and the person or group determining fault will change based on the unique circumstances of each case.
Patients will never be held responsible for their initial injuries. Just because a patient suffered a broken arm in a car accident because they ran a red light does not mean that the patient is responsible for the negligence of the doctor. Health care professionals always have a duty to provide the standard of care to their patients.
Doctors and Health Care Professionals: Introducing The Medical Malpractice Standard Of Care
Doctors and health care professionals are required to follow the "standard of care" when diagnosing and treating patients. Therefore, most health care providers can be sued for malpractice. The standard of care says that health care professionals must act in a way that any other reasonable doctor with the same qualifications and in the same positions would act. The standard of care is set through complex interactions between medical studies, practicing doctors, and medical journals. Not all physicians are held to the same standard. There is a different standard of care for specialists.
For more on the medical malpractice standard of care, we recommend the following articles:
- Intro to the standard of care in medical malpractice:
- Intro to specific physician duties in medical malpractice: Learn about who defines the duty of care for different types of doctors.
- Where does the medical malpractice standard of care come from? A historical overview of the standard of care in medical malpractice cases.
To claim a breach in the standard of care by a health care professional, the following must be true:
- A doctor-patient relationship existed (this includes health care professionals not just doctors; and
- The health care professional breached the standard of duty; and
- The breach of duty directly resulted in a serious injury to the patient.
In medical malpractice cases, the burden of proof is on the victim. Victims must be able to prove that the health care professional breached the standard of care and that their injury was directly related to the breach in the standard of care.
Hospitals and Health Care Facilities
Hospitals and health care facilities can be held liable for their employees. If a patient suffered an injury from a negligent doctor at a hospital, both the doctor and the hospital can be sued for damages. Vicarious liability in medical malpractice is a complex legal subject that differs from state to state.
Res Ipsa Loquitur
If a patient suffers an injury from an act of negligence of unquestionably poor care by the doctor, the patient can claim "res ipsa loquitur" or "the thing speaks for itself". This removes the burden of proof for the patient and automatically awards damages. Learn more about what happens when a doctor or other health care provider fails to exercise the standard of care.
Types of Patient Fault Negligence Claims
Usually, when we think of medical malpractice cases we think of mistakes committed by medical professionals that result in an injury to the patient. However, patients can also be held responsible for their own injuries if they had any role of fault in the injury. There are two main negligence rules that states follow when patient fault is involved: contributory and comparative negligence.
Contributory Negligence In Medical Malpractice Cases
Contributory negligence holds that patients who are even slightly responsible for their own injury are barred from receiving compensation. Read more about contributory negligence.
Comparative Negligence In Medical Malpractice Cases
Normally, comparative negligence allows patients to receive compensation proportionally to the amount of fault committed by the medical professional. If a patient is found to be 20% at fault for her own injury, the patient can only receive 80% of the damages. Some states subscribe to "modified comparative negligence" that bars patients from proportional damage rewards if the patient is found to be more than 50% at fault for the injury. Read more about pure comparative negligence and modified comparative negligence.
States can also choose to use the slight/gross negligence system. Currently, South Dakota is the only state that subscribes to this system. Read the modified comparative negligence for more information about slight/gross negligence.
Investigating Your Claim
An experienced medical malpractice attorney can help you determine fault in your case. An attorney can get a medical release to view all of your medical documents, and will comb through your treatment progression to determine any instances of negligence committed by the doctor, health care professional, or patient. If a medical professional is found to be at fault, an attorney can help you recover monetary compensation for damages related to the injury including medical bills, lost wages, emotional suffering, and loss of consortium.
Maryland Medical Malpractice Attorneys
Proving fault in medical malpractice cases is complicated, and it has a big effect on the amount of damages patients can receive for injuries. In some states, patients can be barred from any compensation for contributing even 1% to their own injury. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury as the result of a medical professional, you need to speak with an experienced medical malpractice attorney who can successfully review your case and determine who breached the standard of care and how that breach contributed to the injury.
Call our offices today at (800) 529-6162 to speak to an experienced attorney and schedule a free consultation.