Court Deems Slip and Fall in Doctor’s Office a Medical Malpractice Incident

A West Virginia court recently issued an opinion highlighting one of the challenges that plaintiffs may face when their injuries took place at a hospital or doctor’s office. In this case, the issue was whether a patient’s slip and fall claim should have been classified as a premises liability claim or a medical malpractice claim. The court eventually decided that since the injury took place when the patient was receiving “health care related” services, the case should be deemed a medical malpractice claim.

The facts of the case are as follows. A woman took her husband to an urgent care facility, where a staff member directed them to a private examination room. The staff member told the patient to sit on the examination table and wait for the physician to arrive. As the man tried to get onto the table, he fell. Not long after the incident, the man died as a result of complications from the fall.

The man’s wife filed a premises liability claim against the urgent care facility. Premises liability is a legal doctrine that generally comes into play in personal injury cases in which an injury is caused by some type of unsafe or defective condition on someone’s property. The urgent care facility responded, stating that the lawsuit should have been filed under the state’s medical malpractice statute because it was “related” to the provision of health care services. The court agreed.

The takeaway for Maryland in this case is that plaintiffs naming health care providers or medical facilities as defendants may ultimately be characterized as a medical malpractice claim. This is important because medical malpractice claims are treated differently from other personal injury cases in Maryland. For example, to bring a medical malpractice claim, the plaintiff must meet specific procedural requirements before the claim can be filed in court. First, a plaintiff must obtain a certificate of merit by a physician to accompany the claim that the negligent physician breached the appropriate standard of care and that the breach was a direct cause of the plaintiff’s harm. This requirement is designed to parse out frivolous lawsuits from meritorious ones.

The statute of limitations is also slightly different in ordinary personal injury cases and medical malpractice cases in Maryland. A plaintiff has three years from the date of an accident to file a personal injury claim. A medical malpractice claim, however, must be filed three years from the discovery of the injury or five years from the date of the injury, whichever is earlier.

If you have been injured at a hospital, clinic, or urgent care facility, it is important to speak to a Baltimore medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. At Arfaa Law Group, we can meticulously examine the facts of your claim and determine your eligibility for compensation. You can rest assured that we can provide you with an honest assessment of your case. We are here to answer all of your questions and address your concerns. For more information, do not hesitate to call 410-889-1850 or contact us online.

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