What is the Standard of Care in a Maryland Medical Malpractice Case?

Posted on behalf of Peter T. Nicholl in Medical Malpractice Published on March 15, 2023 and updated on May 15, 2023.

doctor reviewing chest x-raySometimes medical professionals make mistakes. As a result, their patients suffer injuries. While these patients may want to seek compensation for damages, they may not all have valid cases.

Mistakes during treatment are not enough to prove medical malpractice occurred. Your lawyer must prove the medical professionals who treated you failed to perform up to the medical standard of care.

This is a complex legal concept that has multiple elements. It is also important to note the standard of care for Maryland medical malpractice cases is not the same as it is in other states. This is one of many reasons why victims of medical negligence should seek help from a lawyer who has significant experience in these types of cases in Maryland.

Peter T. Nicholl Law Offices has represented medical malpractice victims and other victims of negligence for more than three decades. Our medical malpractice lawyers in Maryland have obtained millions for our medical malpractice clients and our services come with no legal obligation.

Free legal consultation with no upfront fees. Call us at 410-401-9979.

What is the Standard of Care?

A general definition is the level of care provided by a medical professional operating in the same medical community under similar circumstances who has:

  • Reasonable competence
  • Skill
  • Similar background

One way to think about this concept is by asking whether a medical professional who was similarly situated in terms of skills and medical knowledge would have provided similar treatment to what you received. If the answer is no, and you were injured by a doctor’s treatment, there may be grounds for a medical malpractice case.

When determining if the standard of care was met, courts examine various factors, including the following:

  • If your treating doctor was a general practitioner or had specialty
  • How close the doctor was to other medical facilities and specialists
  • Recent medical advances that may have helped with your treatment
  • The medical condition being treated
  • Your age
  • Your medical history

One thing to keep in mind is the standard of care for a younger individual is much different than the standard of care for someone who is elderly. Some treatment options may not be available or may be too risky because of a patient’s age.

It is also important to note more is expected from specialists than general practitioners. Examples of specialists who might commit medical malpractice include:

  • Cardiologists
  • Neurologists
  • Urologists
  • Radiologists
  • Oncologists
  • Ophthalmologists
  • Anesthesiologists
  • Orthopedists
  • Pediatricians
  • Internal medicine doctors

What this means in practice is that if a radiologist reads an X-ray, he or she would have a different standard of care than an emergency room physician or general practitioner who read the X-ray. In a medical malpractice case, courts are going to consider whether the emergency room doctor did what other similarly situated emergency room doctors would have done.

Proving the standard of care was breached requires significant legal knowledge and resources, but there are other elements that must be proved in a medical malpractice case. For example, your lawyer must prove it was the doctor’s actions that led directly to your injuries. This is another reason why victims need to find a licensed lawyer with significant experience with these cases.

The Law Offices of Peter Nicholl has recovered millions on behalf of malpractice victims, including a settlement of more than $6 million for a patient who was left waiting for medical attention in the hospital for several days.

Standard of Care in Maryland

Some jurisdictions apply a community standard of care. This means medical professionals’ actions are compared to the actions of other medical providers in the same community who have similar training and experience and operate in the same field.

However, Maryland abandoned its strict locality rule in 1975 after the Shilkret v. Annapolis Emergency Hospital Association decision by the Maryland Court of Appeals. This court decision established that courts must consider whether the medical professional performed as other similar situated professionals would have, regardless of where those other professionals were practicing.

How Does This Affect Expert Witness Testimony?

In a medical malpractice case, you need testimony from a medical expert to explain when and how a doctor did not meet the standard of care for the situation.

One of the practical effects of abolishing the strict locality rule is that expert witnesses do not need to be familiar with the standard of care in the locality where the victim was injured. Your lawyer only needs to find an expert who has similar training and experience in the same specialty as the medical professional who treated you.

Expert witnesses not having familiarity with the locality where malpractice occurred was upheld in a 2011 case in Maryland federal court.

The expert who testified in the case was a urologist in New York and did not have a license to practice in Maryland. The expert had not done research about Cumberland, Maryland, which is where the victim was allegedly injured. The expert did not talk to any colleagues in Maryland about providing care in the state.

The court decided to allow his testimony because the state does not use a strict locality standard with expert witnesses. The expert was able to provide evidence that the medical standard for care from a urologist was the same in Cumberland, Maryland as it was in other places in the nation.

Unsure if You Were Injured by Malpractice? Call Us Today

Medical malpractice happens far too often. However, it is difficult to prove malpractice and medical malpractice insurers are going to fight hard to avoid liability.

You need an experienced legal team that has the resources and legal knowledge to fight for your interests. While many cases are settled, we are also prepared to go to court to fight for your rights.

We do not charge any upfront fees. Call us to schedule your free legal consultation.

Call today to learn about your legal options: 410-401-9979.