Medical Malpractice FAQ:

According to patient safety experts at Johns Hopkins, there are more than 250,000 deaths per year due to medical error in the U.S. This represents 9.5% of all deaths and is the 3rd leading cause of death in the U.S. behind cancer and heart disease. In addition to deaths caused by medical mistakes, others estimate that medical mistakes that cause serious harm seems to be “10- to 20-times more common than lethal harm.” Based on these statistics, every hour of every single day there are hundreds of people in the U.S. to fall victim to medical malpractice.

What is medical malpractice?

All healthcare providers must comply with “the standard of care.” The standard of care for a healthcare provider in Maryland is what a reasonably prudent healthcare provider would do under the same or similar circumstances. If a healthcare provider fails to act reasonable under the circumstances, then he or she has “breached” the standard of care. But, a breach alone is not malpractice – the breach by the healthcare provider must cause damage. The damage caused by a medical mistake varies but usually involve a serious injury or death.

How do I know if the injury or death was malpractice or a complication of the procedure?

In general, it is malpractice if the injury or “bad outcome” could have been prevented or should have been avoided. On the other hand, if the healthcare provider acted reasonably and took reasonable precautions and an injury resulted anyway, the injury might be a known complication. Determining whether an injury was malpractice or a known complication often involves an expert opinion by another healthcare provider in the same or similar area of medicine and your attorney will investigate the care and treatment to determine this answer.

How much will it cost me to get an expert opinion?

ZERO! Although most medical malpractice cases can cost more than $100,000 to pursue, a good medical malpractice attorney will front all the costs of bringing a lawsuit and recover those costs back at the end of the case if there is a verdict or settlement against a healthcare provider.

Who will pay me if there is a settlement or a verdict against a healthcare provider?

Just like you have car insurance, most healthcare providers have medical malpractice insurance that will pay the settlement or judgement. If a claim is against a hospital, most hospitals are self-insured for actions of their healthcare providers.

What should I do if I think I am the victim of a medical mistake?

If you think that you or a loved one has suffered a serious injury or death as a result of a medical mistake you should consult with an attorney who is known for handling cases involving medical errors and mistakes. The attorneys at Potter Burnett Law will review your potential case with you at NO COST to you.

What happens after I consult with an attorney?

If an attorney determines the injury or death may be the result of a medical error the next step would be to obtain all of the relevant medical records and have them reviewed by a medical expert. Again, the investigation is at NO COST to you. If the experts believe there was a breach of the standard of care that caused you or your loved one harm, the next step would be filing a lawsuit and pursuing your claim.

How long after an injury or death do I have to file a medical malpractice lawsuit?

In Maryland, the time to file a medical practice, also known as the Statute of Limitations, is generally 3 years. You can review this law at §5-109 of Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc. Article.

If the injury is not immediately known, victims have 3 years from when the injury is or should have been discovered. But, absent special circumstances, a lawsuit must be filed within 5 years from the date of the malpractice. Common cases where there is a delay in discovering an injury often involve cancer that should have been found earlier.

To make things even more confusing, in cases involving children, the time to bring a lawsuit starts running when the child turns 18 years old regardless of when the injury occurred.

If you think you or a loved one is a victim of medical malpractice you should take action IMMEDIATELY. If your case is past the statute of limitations, no attorney in the world can fix it!

I don’t have any money to hire a lawyer. What do I do?

You are in luck! At Potter Burnett Law we handle our personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis. That means the consultation is free and we work on your case without getting paid until you receive a recovery. You do not pay anything unless, and until, we secure a settlement or verdict for you. No money is required up front so call us today to discuss your case.

Car Accident FAQ:

My car was towed from the scene. What do I do?

Find out where the car is located as soon as possible. The storage lot where the car was taken charges a storage fee for each day the vehicle is on its lot. These fees can add up and you might be required to pay them immediately before you can move the car to another location. You should get personal belongings and valuables out of the car as soon as possible. You should also take photos of your car showing all of the damage. Lastly, don’t forget about getting your tags off of the vehicle.

I have “liability coverage only” on my car because it is an older vehicle. Does that matter?

Yes. If you have “liability coverage only,” and the other driver’s insurance company is investigating the collision and/or denying responsibility for causing the accident, then you are responsible for moving your vehicle from the storage lot at your own expense; you also have to pay for the property damage repairs at your own expense. In the event your car is totaled, no insurance company will reimburse you for anything property damage related. The only way to potentially collect money for the damage to your vehicle is to file a lawsuit. Make sure you get a property damage estimate and take photos of the vehicle to preserve your claim.

My car is totaled. What happens next?

If your car is totaled and the other driver’s insurance company has admitted fault, they will make you a property damage offer. You are entitled to the fair market value for the vehicle before it was totaled. The insurance companies have their own software for determining what fair market number to offer. If you are in agreement with the amount quoted to you for the total loss, you will need to sign over your title to the insurance company and they will issue a check to the lender, or if the car is paid for, directly to you. You can keep the car, but note that if it is deemed totaled, it will have a salvage title and you will get less money for the car.

You can go through this same process with your own insurance company if you have full coverage, but note that you will be charged your deductible and those typically range from $250-$1,000. You will get reimbursed later by the other driver’s insurance company, if, and when, they admit fault.

The insurance company wants me to give a recorded statement about my accident. What do I do?

You are required to give your own insurance company a recorded statement upon request, following your involvement in a car accident. This is required because you have a duty within your insurance policy to cooperate.

However, you ARE NOT required to give a recorded statement to the other driver’s insurance company. In fact, we recommend that you do not give a statement to the other driver’s insurance company because it is often used against you.

What is Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage?

PIP is a no-fault coverage that is required in Maryland unless you sign a waiver with your insurance coverage stating you don’t want to purchase it. It is a great benefit and you should check your policy and make sure you have it. It can be used whether you are at fault or a victim. PIP is offered in three amounts ($2,500, $5,000 and $10,000). PIP coverage is per person in the vehicle. It can be used to pay medical expenses or 85% of lost wages. PIP benefits are payable through your own policy and you do not have to pay the money back. PIP helps you pay bills or wages, but allows you to still collect money from the at-fault driver for those same bills. Your insurance company cannot raise your rates, penalize you, or drop you for making a PIP claim. Remember, they will not mail out a lump sum check. Think of PIP like a debit card, as you get treatment or incur lost wages, the insurance will pay a little at a time.

I was just in an accident and I’m having pain and discomfort. Should I go to the doctor?

If you are experiencing pain or discomfort after a motor vehicle collision, you should consult with a medical professional as soon as possible. Always follow your doctors’ orders regarding follow up care.

I was hurt in an accident and it wasn’t my fault. What could I be entitled to?

If you are hurt in an accident, you have the right to pursue a claim against the at fault driver. You have the right to have your vehicle repaired or paid for (in the event it was totaled). You also have the right to make a bodily injury claim. Bodily injury claims have multiple components. You are entitled to payment of all related medical bills, lost wages, out of pocket expenses (like prescriptions) and you are also entitled to non-economic damages. “Non-economic damages” is the legal term for pain, suffering, inconvenience and other similar harms. Note that the at fault insurance company only ever gives you ONE CHECK and ONE CHECK EVER for your bodily injury claim. The insurance company will not pay medical bills or wages as you incur them; rather, it is a lump sum, single check. You can never re-open your claim after you receive that one-time check. It is important to consult with a lawyer before accepting any money from the at fault driver’s insurance company.

I am missing time from work as a result of a car crash. Can I get my wages paid?

If you are missing time from work due to injuries following a car crash, you are entitled to have your wages paid. It is very important that you have a doctor’s note and/or disability slips for any time missed, as this will make it more likely the insurance company will pay your wages. You should keep diligent notes on the time and hours missed from work and why you missed work. Furthermore, you will need your employer to verify the time missed. The best way to have a successful lost wage claim is with ample documentation and proof.

At the scene the other driver admitted fault, now his/her insurance company is refusing to accept liability. What do I do?

Often times following an accident the accounts of what happened change. It is important to attempt to secure witnesses at the scene and get the police to write a report whenever possible. This will help decrease the chances of a change in story. You should also take photos at the scene of the positions and locations of the vehicles in the roadway following the collision. In the event the at fault driver’s insurance company denies liability, you should consult with an attorney. If you have full coverage on your car, your vehicle repairs can be handled through your own insurance company.

I was hurt in a hit and run accident. What do I do?

You should report the hit and run accident to the police immediately and provide them with as much information about the happening of the crash as possible. Make sure to get a police report. Report the collision to your own insurance company right away. In the event the other vehicle cannot be located, your insurance policy permits you to make a property damage and bodily injury claim through your policy of insurance under what is called “uninsured motorist” coverage. Your insurance company will step in and protect you. It is important to have good uninsured motorist coverage to protect you and your family in these types if situations. Your insurance company cannot penalize you, drop you, or raise your rates for making an uninsured motorist claim, as you were the victim.

The driver who hit me has no insurance. What happens now?

Much like when you are in a hit and run accident, in the event you are hit by a driver who has no insurance, you should report the accident to police. If police investigate, they are likely to cite the other driver as it is illegal to drive in MD without insurance. You can make a claim through your own insurance company under your “uninsured motorist” coverage. Your insurance company cannot penalize you, drop you, or raise your rates for making an uninsured motorist claim, as you were a victim.

How do you calculate pain and suffering?

Pain and suffering falls in the category of “non-economic” damages. If you are hurt in a car crash and receive medical treatment for those injuries, you are entitled to recover for non-economic damages. In personal injury cases, there is no formula for calculating pain and suffering. Rather, each claim is evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Factors commonly considered in pain and suffering awards are: the nature and extent of the injury, how the injury affected your ability to perform activities of daily living, and whether the injury caused any scarring, impairment or disfigurement. You should consult with an attorney to ensure you receive a fair settlement.

Can I hire any attorney that I want following a car accident?

Yes. You have the absolute right to hire whatever attorney is best for you. You should consult with an attorney and select someone you feel will be the best advocate for you. It is a good idea to hire an attorney who handles primarily personal injury matters, as opposed to hiring a general practitioner. Auto accident cases are unique and attorneys who handle those types of cases daily are in a better position to evaluate your case.

I don’t have any money to hire a car crash lawyer. What do I do?

You are in luck. Potter Burnett Law handles personal injury matters on a contingency fee basis. That means the consultation is free and we work on your case without getting paid until you receive a recovery. You do not pay anything unless, and until, we secure a settlement or verdict for you. Our fee is a percentage based upon the settlement amount. No money is required up front. Call us to discuss.

I was hurt in an accident that wasn’t my fault. How am I going to pay for my medical bills?

There are multiple ways your medical bills might be paid after an accident. First, you should see if you have PIP coverage through your policy of insurance. In the event that you do have PIP, your medical bills should be submitted to PIP for payment. If and when your PIP benefits are exhausted, you should use your health insurance to pay medical bills. If a provider does not accept your health insurance, they may ask you to sign an “Assignment and Authorization.” This is a promise to pay the medical bills out of any settlement or verdict that you receive. The at fault insurance company WILL NOT pay out for bills as you incur them. You get ONE CHECK and ONE CHECK EVER for your bodily injury claim. You should consult with an attorney about how this works.

If I need more medical care in the future, will the insurance company pay for that?

Remember, the at fault driver’s insurance company gives ONE CHECK and ONE CHECK EVER. This includes both past and future medical care. In the event you have a permanent injury that will require future treatment, or you are concerned about needing medical care after you settle, you should consult with an attorney to ensure your future claims are protected.

Do I need an attorney for my car accident?

If you were hurt in a car accident and incurred medical expenses, you should absolutely consult with an attorney about your rights and options. Insurance companies are in the business of making money, collecting premiums, and paying out as little as possible on claims. After all, they are big businesses. A lawyer can ensure that you get a full and fair settlement for all of your medical expenses, lost wages, and the hardship and inconvenience you suffered following a crash. Insurance companies are known for taking advantage of unrepresented individuals and making lowball offers to close out the cases quickly. You are already a victim, do not allow yourself to fall victim to the insurance company’s tactics to quickly settle your claim for a nominal value. Remember, Potter Burnett Law offers free consultations in person or over the phone. Call us to make sure you are protected.

I was hurt in an accident and incurred medical bills. What is my case worth?

Some of the factors of case value are: medical expenses; lost wages; out of pocket expenses; the length, duration and severity of your injury; what if any residual and/or permanent problems you have; how your ability to carry out activities of daily living was affected; what if any hobbies/activities you routinely engaged in were affected or limited; and whether you have any scarring, impairment or disfigurement. A lawyer who routinely handles car crash cases will be best equipped to get you a fair settlement taking these factors and other unique factors of your case into consideration.

Legal representation for car accident victims in: Charles County, PG County, Anne Arundel County, and the Maryland/DC/Metro area.