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How Effective is the 20 Percent Rule in Maryland Malpractice Cases?

columnIf you or a member of your family has been harmed by a medical professional’s negligence, you need to reach out to a seasoned Baltimore medical malpractice attorney who can help. At Arfaa Law Group, not only do we understand how to navigate complex medical malpractice cases, but also we understand the procedural rules that must be followed in these cases. With years of experience, we can help your family and you pursue the compensation you need to move on with your life after a medical injury.

Medical malpractice litigation generally requires using expert witnesses. These witnesses are necessary to help the jury understand medical issues that may be at issue in a malpractice trial. In Maryland, expert testimony may be admitted if the court decides that the testimony will help the trier of fact (either the judge or the jury) understand the evidence or determine a fact at issue in the case.

Under Maryland law, an expert in a malpractice claim opining on the “standard of care” cannot devote in excess of 20 percent of their professional activities to courtroom testimony. Put simply, you cannot call as a witness on the standard of care anyone who spends more than one day a week out of five working as an expert witness. The idea behind this rule is to discourage the use of “professional experts” or so-called “hired gun” doctors who simply travel to testify as opposed to seeing patients. While the principle makes sense, the 20% requirement may seem arbitrary to some.

Now, the Maryland General Assembly is considering a law known as SB30 to repeal the 20 percent rule. Proponents of the bill say that costly courtroom determinations about whether the expert witness in question complies with the rule are a waste of time and money. Critics of the bill say the 20 percent rule was created to safeguard against frivolous medical malpractice claims that use professional experts who earn income solely from testifying, and this would lead to an increase in malpractice cases and increase insurance premiums for doctors.

In order to file a medical malpractice claim in Maryland, certain procedural requirements must be met. Under Maryland law, a certificate of merit must be filed in every malpractice lawsuit. This certificate must be produced by a medical doctor (most often in the same specialty as the defendant), and it must say that the defendant doctor breached the duty of care. The expert producing the certificate must comply with the 20 percent rule. This is a strict requirement. If the certificate is defective due to the 20 percent rule or any other reason, the lawsuit will fail.

Expert witnesses can make or break a medical malpractice case. At Arfaa Law Group, our Baltimore medical malpractice attorneys can look into the facts of your case and help you understand your legal rights and options. For years, we have been helping Maryland clients resolve their malpractice claims, and we can help you as well. To speak to one of our team members, call 410-889-1850 or contact us online.

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