The law allows patients to sue healthcare providers for injuries caused by medical malpractice, but exactly which law applies to you can make a big difference in your case. Maryland, Washington DC, and Virginia all have different case requirements, caps on amounts of damages that can be awarded, and time limits to bring a claim. Living in the Washington, DC area also adds a level of complexity, as a doctor could work in one state and live in another. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can look at the unique aspects of your case so a lawsuit can be filed in the most advantageous location.
Washington DC Medical Malpractice Cases
In the District of Columbia, medical malpractice victims have:
- 3 years to file an injury claim. You have three years to file a claim for medical malpractice that caused injuries. However, medical negligence can take a while, sometimes years, to show symptoms. Fortunately, DC follows the discovery rule, meaning the "clock" starts on the day the patient discovers the injury—not the date the medical procedure or negligence occurred.
- 2 years to file a wrongful death claim. If you are bringing a medical malpractice case on behalf of a deceased family member, you only have two years from the date of death to file a wrongful death claim.
- Notice of intent requirements. You are required to notify the negligent health care provider of your intention to file suit at least 90 days before you file. If you do not give the at-fault party a notice that includes the legal basis for your claim and the harm you have suffered, a court may not allow your lawsuit to proceed.
- Contributory negligence laws. Washington DC is one of the few places that still follows the contributory negligence rule in malpractice cases. This means that if you share even a small degree of fault, you may be barred from recovering damages.
- Mandatory mediation. Medical malpractice cases in DC are required to go through mediation sessions before trial. These proceedings are confidential, and any statements made in mediation are usually inadmissible at trial.
- Active duty military personnel. The law recently changed to allow, for the first time, activity duty military personnel who are medical malpractice victims to make claims against the Department of Defense.
- Limits on suits against the federal government. If you are seeking damages from an agent of the federal government, you have two years to file an administrative claim with the at-fault agency. If the agency denies the claim, you must file suit within six months from the date the denial was mailed.
- Limits on suits against the District of Columbia. If your claim is against the District, you must file a notice of claim with the mayor's office within six months of the date of injury.
Maryland Medical Malpractice Cases
In Maryland, medical malpractice victims face the following requirements:
- 3 years to file an injury claim—usually. Maryland’s statute of limitations is a little tricky. There are circumstances where you can file your claim within five years of the date of injury—those are cases when you don’t realize right away that you are a victim of medical malpractice. There are also unique rules which apply to children and people with mental disabilities.
- The rules are different for minors. Maryland has special filing rules for patients who are underage when medical negligence takes place. In these cases, the statute of limitations doesn't start to run until the patient's 18th birthday, regardless of the age at which the injury occurred. So, a patient injured at age 5 can file suit up to the age of 21 (Be careful though, claims the parents have may have different limitations periods.)
- Certificate of a qualified expert. Patients are required to file a "certificate of a qualified expert" within 90 days of the filing of a medical malpractice lawsuit. This is a sworn statement from a qualified medical expert who has reviewed your case and determined that the negligent health care provider failed to perform at the accepted standard of care.
- Mandatory arbitration. In Maryland, every medical malpractice case is required to be initiated through an arbitration proceeding in the Health Claims Alternative Dispute Resolution Office. In most cases, we will waive the arbitration process because we can get faster results in the Circuit Courts.
Virginia Medical Malpractice Cases
Virginia medical malpractice claims have the following regulations:
- 2 years to file a claim. Most medical malpractice cases involving an adult's injury or death must be brought within two years from the date the negligence occurred—regardless of how long it took to discover the injury.
- Exceptions. Virginia has numerous exceptions to the general statute of limitations, such as for a foreign object (like a sponge, gauze, or medical instrument) being left inside a body, and a healthcare provider conceals that malpractice took place.
- Notice requirements. In some instances, namely, when the healthcare provider is employed by the state, you must give written notice of the malpractice within one year.
- Less protection for minors. Unfortunately, Virginia has unfavorable laws for minors. If a child in Virginia is a victim of medical negligence, in most cases, he or she still only has two years from the date of injury to sue for malpractice. There is an exception for young children—those under age 8 have more than two years and can file up until their 10th birthday.
- Contributory negligence. Like DC, Virginia follows the contributory negligence rule, barring recovery for any patient who shares liability for their own injury.
- Optional medical review panels. Either party has the ability to request a medical review panel to review their medical malpractice claim. The Supreme Court of Virginia appoints a panel of two doctors and two attorneys (overseen by a judge) to decide if the evidence shows that the care fell below the acceptable standard. While the panel's findings are non-binding, the opinions of the medical review panel will be admissible in court.
How an Attorney Can Help After a Medical Injury
Hospitals and healthcare providers have huge insurance limits to cover malpractice claims, but that doesn't mean the insurer will agree to pay out. Insurance agents may goad you into making a statement or accepting less than you are owed simply because you are unaware of your rights.
I can take on the burden of your case by:
- Answering requests and settlement negotiations from the insurance company
- Making sure you have everything you need as you recover
- Reviewing your medical records to build your strongest case
- Sending out subpoenas to obtain evidence that supports your claim
- Interviewing witnesses to the incident and obtaining expert testimony
- Keeping you updated on the status of your case to give you peace of mind