| Read Time: 4 minutes | Medical Malpractice

Every day, people place their health and well-being in the hands of medical professionals, trusting their expertise to diagnose and treat their conditions.

Unfortunately, sometimes things go wrong. Medical errors can occur, and when they do, you may have a claim for medical malpractice against the offending practitioner. 

The 4 D’s of medical malpractice—duty, dereliction of duty, direct causation, and damages—are the foundation of any claim of this type. Understanding this legal framework can empower you to seek justice and compensation.

The 4 D’s of Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice, also known as medical negligence, occurs when a healthcare provider deviates from the accepted standard of care, resulting in a medical injury.

To prove a claim in Maryland, you’ll need to establish the presence of four key elements, often referred to as the 4 D’s. Understanding these elements is the first step toward a successful outcome.

However, it’s important to remember that “medmal” cases are not easy to win. Consulting with a Maryland medical malpractice lawyer is vital to assess the specific details of your case and determine if you have a solid legal claim.

1. Duty 

The first D in medical malpractice—duty—establishes the foundation of a potential claim. To prove a medical malpractice claim, you must demonstrate that a doctor-patient relationship existed.

The relationship forms when you consult the healthcare provider for a medical condition, and they agree to treat you.

When you have a doctor-patient relationship with a healthcare professional, they owe you a duty of care. Duty is a legal obligation to provide a standard of care that aligns with what a reasonably prudent healthcare provider would do in similar circumstances.

The specific standard of care can vary depending on the medical specialty, the circumstances of your case, and established medical practices in the region.

2. Dereliction of Duty (Breach of the Standard of Care)

The second D is dereliction of duty, also known as a breach of the standard of care. To prove this element, you’ll need to demonstrate that the healthcare provider deviated from the established standard of care, resulting in your injury. This deviation can manifest in various ways.

  • Misdiagnosis. Failing to correctly diagnose a medical condition can delay appropriate treatment and worsen the patient’s outcome.
  • Surgical errors. Mistakes during surgery, such as operating on the wrong body part or leaving surgical instruments behind, can cause severe complications.
  • Improper medication administration. Prescribing the wrong medication, administering an incorrect dosage, or failing to consider a patient’s allergies can have serious consequences.
  • Failure to order necessary tests. Not ordering appropriate diagnostic tests can lead to missed diagnoses and delayed treatment.

Proving that there was a breach in the standard of care typically requires expert medical testimony from a qualified healthcare professional familiar with the relevant medical specialty.

Such experts can provide valuable insights into the accepted practices within a specific medical specialty and how the healthcare provider in question fell short of those expectations.

3. Direct Causation

The third D is direct causation. You’ll need to demonstrate a clear connection or link between the healthcare provider’s breach of duty and your injury.

This means the medical error must be the proximate cause of your harm. For example, imagine an anesthesiologist breached their duty of care by giving you more than the recommended amount of medication.

A week after your surgery, you develop a serious infection in your surgical incision. Although there was a breach of duty and an injury, there is likely no link between the two, so it will be difficult to establish causation.

The burden of proof in a medical malpractice case lies with the plaintiff (the injured party).  This means you’ll need to present medical evidence and expert testimony to demonstrate a clear link between the healthcare provider’s negligence and the harm you suffered.

An experienced medical malpractice attorney can guide you through the evidence-gathering process and help establish the necessary causation.

4. Damages

The final D is damages. To successfully pursue a claim, you must have sustained quantifiable losses as a result of the medical error. These damages can be categorized as either economic or noneconomic.

  • Economic damages. These encompass measurable financial losses, such as medical bills, lost wages due to missed work, rehabilitation costs, and future medical expenses related to the injury caused by the medical error.
  • Noneconomic damages. These are losses that can not be measured by a specific monetary amount. Noneconomic damages may include pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and disability caused by the medical error.
  •  Caps on noneconomic Damages. Maryland law caps non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, in medical malpractice cases. The cap increases each year and is $890,000 for cases arising in 2024. In some wrongful death cases, the award for non-economic damages may increase to 125% of the damage cap. 

It’s important to note that the specific amount of damages you may be entitled to will depend on the severity of your injuries, the long-term impact on your life, and the economic losses you’ve incurred.

Consulting with a qualified medical malpractice attorney in Maryland is crucial to understanding the specific laws and potential damages you may be able to recover.

When to Seek Legal Help from a Maryland Medical Malpractice Lawyer

If you suspect you’ve been affected by medical malpractice, seeking legal counsel from a qualified Maryland medical malpractice lawyer is critical. Here are some indicators that suggest you have a case:

  • You suffered a severe injury or worsening condition after receiving medical treatment;
  • There’s evidence that the medical professional deviated from the expected standard of care; or
  • Your injury has caused significant financial hardship or emotional distress.

Medical malpractice cases are difficult and require a deep understanding of medical practices and legal procedures.

An experienced medical malpractice lawyer can evaluate your case, explain your legal options, and guide you through the legal process. For example, your lawyer can:

  • Investigate your case and gather evidence to support your claim,
  • Consult with medical professionals to establish the standard of care and confirm there is a link between the potential breach and your injuries,
  • Negotiate with the healthcare provider’s insurance company on your behalf, and
  • If necessary, represent you in court and fight for the justice you deserve.

Medical malpractice cases can take an emotional toll and become financially burdensome. A Maryland medical malpractice lawyer can fight for your best interests and help ensure you receive fair compensation.

Taking the First Step on Your Path to Justice

If you suspect medical negligence has caused you or a loved one serious injury, don’t settle for anything less than exceptional representation.

Baird Mandalas Brockstedt & Federico, LLC, is a Maryland-based law firm with offices in Baltimore and Columbia. Medical malpractice cases demand specialized attention, extensive experience, and unwavering dedication.

Our firm has recovered over $1 billion dollars in damages for our clients. Contact Baird Mandalas Brockstedt & Federico, LLC today for a free consultation.

Author Photo

Phil Federico is a partner at Baird Mandalas Brockstedt & Federico where he helps lead the Mass Tort / Class Action and Environmental Law practices, transitioning into these areas after beginning his career as a medical malpractice litigator.

Phil has led and been involved in historic and groundbreaking litigation with verdicts and settlements exceeding one billion dollars.

Rate this Post
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars