The statute of limitations for a medical malpractice lawsuit in Maryland is not always absolute. Imagine having to go to trial over when you should have filed a lawsuit. Maryland requires a jury trial when there is a dispute about an untimely claim and justice is needed to protect an unsuspecting victim of negligence.
Here, Bennett and Heyman explain the intricacies of the law known as the “statute of limitations” governing medical malpractice in Maryland. If you are not sure whether you still have time to file a medical malpractice lawsuit, contact our offices. We offer free consultations and are always interested in hearing your questions about this critical issue. Our Baltimore medical malpractice attorneys explain the deadline and exceptions to the statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims in Maryland.
What is a Statute of Limitations?
A statute of limitations is the law dictating the time window in which to bring a certain kind of legal action. Calculating and understanding this deadline is a critical part of most legal practices because it can turn a relatively simple claim into a highly technical and convoluted process.
As with most rules, there are exceptions to the statute of limitations. These exceptions are known as “tolling.” Tolling works as a time extension. It’s typically allowed in situations that call on the court’s sense of justice to extend the period beyond the deadline. In Maryland, the law allows the dispute to move forward in a trial when there are questions about what led to the delay.
Deadline to File a Medical Malpractice Claim in Maryland
Maryland law requires the filing of medical malpractice lawsuits within:
- Five years of the time the injury was inflicted; or
- Three years from the date on which the injury was discovered
This timeline is more complicated than it seems. Lawyers grapple with questions on this statute frequently. For example, there are different limitation periods for minors and persons under a disability.
Can You File a Medical Malpractice Claim Past the Deadline?
Various legal questions can arise in the interpretation of Maryland’s medical malpractice statute of limitations due to the broad statutory language. Also, tolling statutes allow an untimely lawsuit to proceed when there are valid reasons behind the delay.
Specifically, the date when the injury is discovered becomes a highly contested issue. Also, the injury itself is often subject to challenges. Bennet and Heyman’s attorneys recommend that you talk to a legal expert to determine if you have a viable lawsuit.
Common Questions About Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations in Maryland
Maryland tolling statutes provide an avenue to extend the period to file a lawsuit. However, deciding the date when the clock begins to run is a question for a jury because the reasons for the delay are subject to factual analysis. Maryland’s courts have taken the position that juries are the adequate arbiter of controversies over the timing for filing a lawsuit and the determination of whether:
- An injury caused by negligence or oversight was “fraudulently concealed” past the deadline to file a lawsuit
- There was reasonable diligence in investigating a legal claim
Some of the common questions juries decide regarding the statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims in Maryland include:
What is Considered an Injury?
The term “injury” in Maryland requires that the negligent act results in harm. If the harm is independent or not related to the injury, then the injury is not recognized as a matter of law.
Sometimes medical mistakes are not evident or are mistaken. If you have questions about a condition or medical complications, you should talk to a qualified Baltimore personal injury attorney who can help you determine if it’s related to a medical error. At Bennett and Heyman, we work with outstanding and highly qualified professionals who assist us in helping our clients answer this question.
A medical malpractice claim is not barred due to a statute of limitations violation if “reasonable minds” could differ over whether it was possible for the plaintiff to investigate a potential lawsuit more thoroughly or at an earlier date.
What is Fraudulent Concealment of Injury?
Fraudulent concealment occurs when a healthcare provider doesn’t disclose that you have an injury to hide their own mistake. Most doctors and medical professionals want to avoid the aggravation of liabilities and assume they can get away with an undisclosed or hidden error. When this happens in Maryland, you may be able to pursue your legal rights, even if the time prescribed in the statute of limitations is expired.
When Does the Clock Start on a Medical Malpractice Claim?
Cases can sometimes proceed even when filed years after the injury occurred or could have been discovered if there is a strong foundation to excuse the delay.
Let’s say, for example, a patient learns through the news that a doctor who treated them is conducting negligent surgeries or unnecessary procedures. While some may argue the patient was “on notice” since the time the news was received, it’s unlikely that a Maryland court will agree to that assertion without conducting a trial where a jury can review evidence of the alleged notice. For this reason, there may be a viable lawsuit if the actions of the hospital amounted to fraudulent concealment.
Let an Experienced Baltimore Medical Malpractice Attorney Evaluate Your Case
Experienced Maryland medical malpractice attorneys work with healthcare professionals who can conduct an independent review of your medical records. Many variables typically impact your ability to discover an injury, as well as the timing at which a discovery should occur. Your doctor may have misled you, or your symptoms may have been atypical or unexpected.
If your physician or hospital intentionally misled you into believing your doctor did no wrong, you may still have a viable legal claim at your disposal years later. Call the accomplished team of Bennett and Heyman at (410) 727-2168 for more information and a free legal consultation.