Several large medical systems that control dozens of Maryland hospitals have been referring their patients to professionals, according to the Baltimore Sun. This would not be considered unusual except that the professionals are attorneys. The University of Maryland, MedStar Health and LifeBridge Health are just three of the Maryland hospitals that keep lists of attorneys to recommend if a patient requires legal advice regarding a potential medical malpractice situation.
Unlike Virginia (VA), the state of Maryland (MD) requires medical malpractice claims to go through mediation before injured patients or survivors of suspected warongful deaths can go to court. Often, a claim is settled between the hospital and the patient with apologies and cash payment even before the mediation process. But when these preliminary actions fail to produce a result that is satisfactory to the hospital and the victim or the victim’s family, a lawsuit will most likely ensue.
According to the newspaper, those in the medical profession see a definite benefit to referring clients to attorneys in that the majority of these cases are settled before going to trial. Because the arrangement is amicable to begin with between the hospital and the medical malpractice attorney, hospital representatives say the settlement may be reached more quickly, resulting in faster compensation for the victim or the family.
Those in the legal field appear divided on the matter, however. Many medical malpractice attorneys wonder how anyone who was referred by the hospital could be impartial and provide proper representation for the patient. Critics contend that attorneys on hospital referral lists will encourage settlements that are more beneficial to the medical system so that they will receive more referrals, which is unfair to malpractice victims.
An attorney on one of the hospital’s referral list disagrees. He tod the Sun that his duty is to represent his client to the best of his abilities, regardless of how the client found out about him. The fact that the referred attorneys work for a reduced fee is also a benefit to the patients, he said.
Should the same institution that allegedly caused injuries or wrongful death through medical malpractice refer an attorney to help the victim obtain justice? The jury is still out.
About the Editors: The Shapiro, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.