What Could Potential Changes to Maine's Medical Malpractice Laws Mean for Your Claim?

Posted on: 10 February 2016

If you reside (or seek medical care) in Maine, you may already be aware of a pending legislative proposal put forth by the Patients for Fair Compensation organization that will make sweeping changes to the way medical malpractice cases are handled in this state. While current medical malpractice laws essentially require you to obtain legal counsel and file your claim in a state trial court, these proposed changes would remove malpractice from the courts entirely. Read on to learn more about how these changes could affect your pending (or future) malpractice claim against a physician or other medical professional who caused you harm.

How are malpractice claims currently handled in Maine?

Like most states, Maine requires medical malpractice claims to be litigated through the court system. Although a doctor and patient (and their respective attorneys) are free to hash out a settlement for a medical error without a legal case ever being filed, there's no other formal adjudicative process to help settle claims. 

When you file a medical malpractice lawsuit, you'll need to successfully prove several different factors in order to recover a monetary judgment. First, you'll need to establish that the physician(s) in question owed you a duty of care. This means that you're only able to sue doctors who took an active role in your care (or whose negligence caused you to suffer adverse effects), rather than every doctor in a multi-physician practice or a staff member at a hospital who never made contact with you. 

You'll then need to show that the doctor breached this duty, and that this breach directly led to your injury. This often requires the testimony of medical professionals, family members, and other individuals who can testify to the harm you suffered and any negligent or reckless behavior observed on the doctor's part. 

Once you've established these factors, you'll move to the damages phase. At this point, the court or a civil jury will assess the monetary value of your case and decide on an amount to assess against the defendant. You may be able to use this judgment to make a claim against the doctor's malpractice insurance policy or seek a personal judgment that can be executed through a wage garnishment.

What will the proposed legislation change about the malpractice process?

The consumer organization Patients for Fair Compensation has proposed some sweeping changes to medical malpractice that would reroute all cases from the court system to an administrative panel of medical professionals. Under this process, you'd write out a complaint against a physician and file it with the administrative board, which would investigate, review, and decide your case. This eliminates much of the litigation inherent in most malpractice cases and ensures that those deciding these matters are knowledgeable about the background issues that can confuse judges and jurors who aren't in the medical field.

How will this change in law affect your case? 

While this proposal is not yet law, it has gained some strong support among many consumer groups. If you've already filed a malpractice action against your doctor or hospital, it's likely your case will continue to play out in the court system rather than being immediately transferred over to the administrative process. However, if this proposal comes to pass and you're later injured due to a doctor's negligence or reckless behavior, you should be able to enjoy the more streamlined process associated with the administrative adjudication of malpractice claims. 

Although processing a malpractice case outside the courts doesn't necessarily require an attorney's services, you can often benefit from seeking legal advice before filing your claim. An attorney can help you ask the right questions and seek the right information to ensure the investigators have all the information that potentially works in your favor and help maximize any judgment received.

However, keep in mind that every state has its own laws, so it's a good idea to research medical malpractice laws in your area before proceeding with your claim. You may want to consider looking into the websites of local medical malpractice attorneys, such as http://www.snyderwenner.com, for more information.