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If You Suffered Medical Malpractice at a Hospital, Do You Sue the Hospital or the Doctor?

On Behalf of | Jun 8, 2022 | 3M Bair Hugger Lawsuits

If you’ve been the victim of medical malpractice in Baltimore, you have the right to file a malpractice lawsuit to try to receive compensation for your injury. Unlike car injuries or accidents on a business’s property, medical cases don’t always have a clear target for a lawsuit. You might consider suing the doctor that caused your injury, for instance. However, it’s also possible to sue the hospital where that doctor works. What should you do?

Who you should sue is an important distinction that you need to settle before you file a lawsuit. If you think you’ve been the victim of medical malpractice, the best thing to do is consult an experienced medical malpractice lawyer. An attorney can help you decide which course of action is best. Still, consider some of the different variables that determine the best way to file a malpractice lawsuit.

If You Suffered Medical Malpractice at a Hospital, Do You Sue the Hospital or the Doctor?

Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit in Baltimore

Before you can decide who to sue, you need to know how to file a lawsuit in the first place. There are rules that could limit your ability to sue entirely. Malpractice cases work differently from other kinds of civil lawsuits. In addition, state laws have added requirements to malpractice suits in an attempt to reduce what they perceive as frivolous lawsuits. We know how to navigate these hurdles and help your case move forward.

Where Must You File?

Most civil suits are filed in a court of law. However, Maryland’s laws force malpractice cases to go through a different channel. A medical malpractice lawsuit in Baltimore must be filed with Maryland’s “Health Care Alternative Dispute Resolution Office.” This applies to lawsuits that seek over $30,000 in damages, which given the high cost of medical care and the need to address noneconomic damages, is nearly every case. But that’s not the only requirement the state has imposed.

In addition to filing your suit with the Dispute Resolution Office, you also have to present an “Expert Certificate.” Essentially, this is a document that comes from another medical expert lending credence to your claims. They have to say that they believe your claim and that your injuries were not your fault. The defending doctors or hospital will also file their own expert certificates. After reviewing the certificates, the Dispute Resolution Office will decide if the claim can continue.

Statute of Limitations on Medical Malpractice Cases

Another thing to consider before you decide who to sue is when the injury occurred. Every kind of injury has some expiration date for compensation. We call that the “statute of limitations.” When it comes to medical malpractice in Maryland, the law requires you to file your claim in a three-year window from the date of the treatment that caused the injury. Sometimes, if you do not discover your injury until later, you may have more time, but you will never have more than five years from when the injury occured.  In fact, many medical injuries are not discovered right away. What happens if you discover it later?

If you discover an injury later on, you get three years to file a claim, never to exceed five years from the date the injury occured. To illustrate, suppose a doctor left a foreign object in a patient after a surgery in 2022. The patient doesn’t notice any discomfort for four years, but one day feels a sharp pain in the area. An X-ray confirms that a foreign object was left behind. Upon discovery, the injured party has the shorter of three years from discovery but no more than 5 years from the date of surgery.

Who Should You Sue?

Having considered the statute of limitations and the extra requirements involved in filing a malpractice claim, if you still believe you have a lawsuit, it’s time to decide who to sue. Ultimately, the best answer is to sue whoever bears the most fault for your injury. Medical malpractice cases can be caused by a number of factors, which means that no two lawsuits will be the same. Always ask a lawyer which is best for your case.

However, there are some general guidelines to consider. In most cases, your lawsuit will target the doctor directly. Nevertheless, there are some circumstances where the hospital and/or other employees warrant being named in the lawsuit.

When It’s Appropriate to Sue the Doctor

Malpractice cases usually name the doctor as the defendant and sue them directly. Generally, this is because the doctor bears the most fault as they performed the procedure or called for incorrect treatment. However, there’s a much more important legal reason to name the doctor.

Many kinds of doctors work as independent contractors. Hospitals take care of billing and logistics, while the doctor performs the work. Because of this, many people think they need to sue the hospital since that’s where their bills come from. However, if the doctor is an independent contractor, you cannot sue the hospital for the doctor’s malpractice. For this reason, most suits will pursue claims against the doctor. Nevertheless, there are exceptions.

When You Should Sue the Hospital

In some cases, suing the hospital makes the most sense from a legal and liability standpoint. If a hospital employee makes a crucial mistake, then the hospital could be held liable. For example, if a hospital medical clerk made a mistake on your records which led to you not receiving important treatment, you would sue the hospital for medical malpractice. If a doctor is following bad orders, there may even be a case for suing both.

If the hospital itself was in violation of Maryland standards and practices, there may also be justification for suing the hospital. For instance, if you had an infection after an operation, there could be a claim against the hospital for failing to provide a clean environment. Equipment failures can also be attributed to the hospital. Similarly, there are times when a patient may rely on the fact that they believe the doctor is affilated with the hospital when choosing that doctor for specific treatment.  Sometimes, in those case, you may have a claim for apparent agency since you believed the doctor to be employed by the hosptial or medical facility.  If you’re in doubt, contact a medical malpractice attorney and explain your case. After reviewing the details, your lawyer can make the best recommendation.

What Compensation Can You Expect?

Malpractice claims seek compensation for economic damages and non-economic damages. The former are damages you can quantify, including things like your medical bills or lost wages due to the injury you suffered. Even seemingly minor expenses like the gas your family spent driving back and forth to the hospital to visit you could be included in that category.

Noneconomic damages, on the other hand, compensate you for your pain and suffering. They can also provide relief if you have a long-term impairment that makes it difficult for you to work or enjoy other activities. If you win your case, most courts will award you full compensation for economic damages, but the exact amount for noneconomic damages is left up to the judge’s discretion.

How Does a Medical Malpractice Attorney Help You?

Deciding who to sue is only the beginning of a long process. If the first step is already complicated, imagine how much more difficult a medical malpractice lawsuit becomes later on. That’s why the lawyers at Peter Angelos Law are here. We know that the legal system is complex, but we want to help you navigate it successfully. We’ll fight to get you as much compensation as possible in the shortest time possible.

If you think you’ve been the victim of medical malpractice, don’t wait until it’s too late. Talk to a lawyer. Contact Peter Angelos Law in Baltimore to speak to one of our attorneys.