An incorrect diagnosis, a delayed diagnosis, or a failure to diagnose can severely undermine a patient’s health. The patient often does not seek the required treatment or seeks inappropriate treatment, which can make his or her medical condition worse. This is especially true in instances of cancer misdiagnosis and other conditions for which early treatment is essential. Other examples include failing to recognize heart attack symptoms, failing to diagnose bacterial infections, and delaying diagnostic test ordering.
Ultimately, a health care provider’s failure to correctly diagnose a condition in a timely manner may result in lifelong disability, costly medical care, or even a tragic loss of life. When a physician fails to diagnose correctly because he or she was not giving the patient proper time, care, and attention, the injured individual can file a medical malpractice claim against that physician and sometimes the hospital that employs him or her. A malpractice action is a specific type of negligence claim. Broadly speaking, negligence consists of failing to take proper care in doing something and thus causing harm to someone else. In this context, therefore, medical malpractice occurs when a health care provider breaches the standard of care owed to a patient.
The standard of care refers to how another doctor in the same specialty and geographic area would act in the same or similar circumstances. If the breach of the standard of care caused the patient’s injuries, and quantifiable damages resulted from the harm, the health care professional generally will be liable. Expert testimony is usually required to establish the elements of a medical malpractice claim, since a judge or jury otherwise would not know what would be expected of a doctor in a certain situation.
Under Maryland law, an injured patient can potentially recover lost income and benefits, medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other economic and non-economic types of damages through a medical malpractice claim. In a narrow range of situations, if the victim can show that the health care provider acted reprehensibly and with malicious intent, the victim may also be able to obtain punitive damages.
It is important to note that patients only have a certain amount of time to file a medical malpractice lawsuit in the state of Maryland. This time limit is known as the statute of limitations. Under Maryland law, an individual has five years from the date that the malpractice took place, or three years from the date that the injury or error was originally discovered, to file a claim. Failure to file within the applicable statute of limitations could mean losing your right to be heard by a court altogether.