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Medical Malpractice Certificate of Merit

To file a medical malpractice lawsuit in Maryland, a plaintiffs’ malpractice lawyer must file a certificate of merit by a medical doctor that the negligent doctor breached the standard of care and caused injury to the injured plaintiff. This certificate of merit is a document authored by one or more experts – almost invariably medical doctors – explaining the good faith basis for filing the lawsuit.

A malpractice lawsuit in Maryland is not filed in Circuit Court but in Health Claims Arbitration. However, since 1995, any party may waive this requirement and proceed to circuit court, assuming the certificate of merit requirement has been met.

Can any doctor sign the certificate of merit? The requirements for eligibility vary from different types of malpractice lawsuits. The preliminary requirement for a medical doctor who executes a certificate of merit in Maryland is that: 1) they have clinical experience, i.e. a doctor who actually provides or provided care and treatment to patients, 2) they provided consultation relating to clinical practice, 3) they taught medicine in the subject matter or a related field of health care or in the field of health care in which the defendant provided care or treatment to the plaintiff, within 5 years of the date of the alleged act or omission giving rise to the cause of action. With limited exceptions, Maryland also requires the doctor be board-certified in the medicine that is the subject of the lawsuit.

The certificate of merit in Maryland medical malpractice cases must contain three elements:

1. Where the doctor is licensed to practice;
2. An opinion within a reasonable degree of medical probability that the treating doctor departed from the applicable standard of care in treating the plaintiff and that there was damage from the breach of the appropriate standard of care;
3. That the doctor does not devote annually more than twenty percent (20%) of his professional activities directly involved in testimony in personal injury claims.