Establishing the Required Elements in Maryland Medical Malpractice Cases

When someone is injured or hurting in some way and needs surgery to fix it, it is important that they can trust their doctor to perform the surgery safely and skillfully. For the most part, surgeries in Maryland go off without a hitch. However, doctors are people just like everyone else, and sometimes they may be careless and make mistakes while performing the surgery, which can lead to serious injuries or even death. In these cases, Maryland state law allows the individuals injured, or their family if the victim dies or is otherwise incapacitated, to file a medical malpractice suit against the negligent doctor.

Like other personal injury cases, medical malpractice suits require the plaintiff to prove four main elements. First, that the defendant doctor or medical professional being sued owed the plaintiff a duty of care. In many cases, this is easily established because doctors generally owe their patients a duty of care. Second, that the defendant breached that duty of care, which typically is more difficult to prove and requires expert testimony. Third, that the breach was the proximate cause of the victim’s injuries. Lastly, that real damage occurred as a result, usually proved through medical bills and expert testimony. Failure to prove even just one of these four elements will typically result in the plaintiff’s suit being dismissed, leaving the plaintiff unable to recover for the harm they suffered.

A recent state appellate case provides an example of when a suit may be dismissed. The plaintiff suffered from temporomandibular joint syndrome, commonly referred to as TMJ, and visited the defendant oral surgeon. After several treatments did not work, the defendant performed intraoral surgery on the plaintiff. Part of the operation required using an oscillating saw, which could in some cases overheat and burn patients. Immediately after the surgery, the defendant noticed that the plaintiff’s face and lips were bruised and swollen, but assumed it was the normal swelling that occurs after surgery. However, when the plaintiff’s condition did not improve, it was discovered that she was suffering from second to third-degree burns.

The defendant testified that the burns probably occurred from the saw overheating, but that he was following proper standards of care, the saw was not hot to his touch, and that he was cycling the saw on and off. Although he may have been able to be more careful during surgery and avoid the burns, the court ultimately found that there was no evidence that he had breached his duty of care, since he was cycling the saw and the saw was not warm to touch. Because the plaintiff thus could not prove the second element required in a medical malpractice case, the defendant prevailed.

Have You Been Injured By a Maryland Medical Professional?

If you or someone you love has recently been injured while being treated by a medical professional, you may be entitled to financial compensation through a Maryland medical malpractice suit. These suits, if successful, can compensate you for pain and suffering, lost wages, medical expenses, and more. Lebowitz & Mzhen, Personal Injury Lawyers, can help talk you through your options and assist you with filing a claim, if you so wish. To learn more, call us today at 800-654-1949.

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