Doctors don’t always get things right, and some of their mistakes can lead to serious problems. If your doctor makes the wrong diagnosis or diagnoses your illness too late, the consequences may be severe. However, such mistakes may not yet qualify as medical malpractice. A doctor’s failures typically count as malpractice only when they don’t meet a reasonable standard of care.
This means that winning a malpractice claim means more than showing your doctor got something wrong. It also means more than showing the error led to injury. It means proving you suffered because your doctor didn’t provide you the same quality of treatment you could have expected from any other doctor.
You need to understand the standard treatments
To win a typical malpractice case, you need to do four things:
- Show that the professional who treated you owed you a duty of care
- Prove the professional failed that duty
- Show that you suffered serious injuries
- Prove those injuries owed to the professional’s failures
It’s a simple list, but there’s a lot to unpack, especially in that second point. Medicine can be tricky and imperfect. Doctors and nurses can make mistakes because their jobs are difficult and because they’re human. Their failures only expose them to malpractice suits when they fail to meet the accepted “standards of care.”
The idea of a reasonable standard of care is an old one and largely defined by the judgments made in prior cases. It also hinges upon a clear understanding of medicine.
Medicine doesn’t just involve skills, but a great deal of knowledge, understanding and decision-making. It generally takes a doctor to recognize when a doctor has acted inappropriately. Maryland § 3-2A-04 acknowledges this fact. It says that you need to file a certificate of a qualified expert showing that your doctor departed from the standards of care. If you don’t, you’re likely to see your case dismissed.
You’re going to want strong evidence
A certificate from a qualified expert is a starting point. It’s not necessarily enough. You’re going to want more evidence. The courts don’t expect your doctor to be perfect or even in the top half. They expect treatment that is reasonable, possibly even minimally competent. It’s likely the doctor or hospital will argue that your treatment followed the baseline expectations but went wrong for other reasons.
To counter their arguments, you’ll want more proof and a team of lawyers and experts who understand both medicine and medical malpractice. You’ll want to present a clear picture of the whole treatment, where it went wrong and how that departure led to your injuries.