Medical Malpractice FAQ

When a person living in Maine is in need of medical care, whether it is a routine visit or surgery, they place their health in the hands of medical professionals. In most instances, the patient receives the proper level of medical care. Unfortunately, there are times when they become injured or even die due to the actions of those that they have put their trust in, giving them grounds for a medical malpractice case. For those who find themselves needing answers, here are some Maine medical malpractice FAQs that might help.

What qualifies as medical malpractice in the state of Maine?

Anytime you are given treatment, or experience a lack of proper treatment, that causes you harm, it could qualify as medical malpractice. This includes any departure from the accepted standards involving a patient’s medical care, health care or even safety that involves negligence. A few examples of this include a delay in treatment, misdiagnosis, errors in prescriptions, improper follow-up or a substandard level of treatment.

The incident can be either intentional or unintentional.

Since medical malpractice is based on negligence, how can I be sure that I have a case? What exactly does negligence cover?

Negligence refers to any situation where the care you receive does not meet the standards that would be recognized by other true similar professionals.

Who can be guilty of medical malpractice?

Physicians and physician assistants, nurses, therapists, paramedics and even dentists can all be charged. In fact, anyone deemed as a professional provider of health care can be held responsible.

How do I know if my case qualifies as medical malpractice?

In order to qualify as a medical malpractice suit in Maine, the victim has to be able to prove three things:

  • The care that they received was below regular professional standards
  • That they sustained an injury with consequences involved
  • That their injury can be directly linked to the medical professional’s error or negligence

What is the statute of limitations for filing a medical malpractice case?

Three years from the date of the action.

I’ve heard that my case may be more like medical negligence instead of medical malpractice. What is the difference between the two?

In some cases they can be very similar, depending on the circumstances. Medical negligence can result in injury or harm to a patient, but it is not necessary in order to qualify as negligence. Medical malpractice results in complication, injury or death as a result of an action by a professional. Medical negligence is actually a part of medical malpractice, so a lawsuit can have components of both in it.

The easiest way to describe it is this:

  • Medical malpractice means that a medical professional DID SOMETHING that they should have known better than to do.
  • Medical negligence means that a medical professional FAILED TO DO SOMETHING that they should have done.

Are medical malpractice cases easy to win or am I just wasting my time?

In medical malpractice cases, studies show that juries often side with the medical professional over the victim. But that doesn’t mean that it’s a waste of time. It does, however, mean that if you pursue one of these cases, you will need to have your facts and all pertinent information complete and in order as much as possible to help your chances.

You have to understand a few things before entering into one of these cases:

  • First: The medical malpractice process is a long and confusing one. It is extremely complicated on it’s own and made much more complicated by the high-priced lawyers that medical professionals hire to represent them. These professionals have a lot riding on the outcome of the case, such as reputations and increased malpractice insurance premiums, so they spare no expense in hiring only the best lawyers that they can find.
  • Second: This process is very expensive. It can easily run into hundreds of thousands of dollars. Most victims don’t have that kind of money to pay out to win a case so they are left to find a lawyer that will agree to represent them in return for a portion of the settlement- provided they win the case. If an attorney is going to invest years of their time in a case, they have to make absolutely sure that they have a significant chance of winning. If they aren’t convinced, they won’t risk taking your case.

What can I expect during the process?

  • First, you will have to satisfy all of the requirements set forth by the state statutes. This could take a year or more.
  • Second, your case will have to go before a “pre-litigation screening panel”. This is mandatory before a case can be considered for a jury trial.

How long will the process take?

Unfortunately, there is no set time frame. One determining factor to the time involved can be based on The Health Security Act, which is the law governing medical malpractice for the state of Maine. It has put quite a few legal obstacles in place that have to be fulfilled before your case can even reach a jury. This adds considerable time to the process.

When comparing it to a standard lawsuit case, you can expect a medical malpractice case to take on average between two to three years just to go to trial, whereas a car accident case would typically go to trial in about a year.

My insurance company is paying me a small settlement. Will that affect my malpractice settlement?

No. Under the collateral source rule, compensation that you are rewarded by the courts cannot be reduced simply because you have received compensation from another source, which in your case is your insurance company.

Where can I find more information about Maine medical malpractice?

The law which governs any Maine medical malpractice claims is also known as The Health Security Act. You can find information on this subject in different places. One is at the State Law and Legislative Library located in Augusta. You can also visit one of the many County Law libraries located throughout the state. Or simply go online and search under the term “Maine Revised Statutes”.

Additionally, learn more about the limits on damages in malpractice cases, medical malpractice in nursing homes, and medical malpractice during surgery in the blog.

If you suspect you or a loved one is a victim of medical malpractice, find out how Nichols & Churchill can help you with your case.