Guide to informed consent for medical procedures

Medical Consent with Laptop and stethoscope

Going to the doctor’s office is never easy. For some patients, routine visits are so stressful that they suffer from what the medical profession calls “white coat syndrome.” This is when the blood pressure readings at your doctor’s office are higher than they are anywhere else. It’s called white coat syndrome because it’s (jokingly) said that the mere sight of the white coats worn by medical professionals causes some patients’ blood pressure to spike. The stress level only heightens in the case of an ER visit, leading to a whirlwind of emotions that make it hard to concentrate on and decipher the information coming your way. 

Now imagine being asked to sign a legal document like an informed consent form under such conditions. They can seem complicated and threatening, but you need to participate in your own medical care as much as possible, and this is why states have informed consent laws. 

What is informed consent? 

Informed consent refers to what a doctor must tell you before you undergo almost any medical procedure. It is both an ethical and legal requirement for healthcare professionals, and it means that you get to decide which treatments you do or do not want to receive. Typically, your doctor, nurse, or another care provider will explain your medical treatment to you before you agree to it – allowing you to ask questions and accept or deny that treatment.

According to Maryland’s common law doctrine of informed consent, a “mentally competent adult is entitled to give or withhold consent to medical treatment after receiving a fair and reasonable explanation of the proposed treatment.”  

What types of procedures require informed consent? 

The following treatments require informed consent:• Most surgeries• Blood transfusions• Use of anesthesia• Radiation treatment• Chemotherapy• Certain advanced medical tests such as a biopsies• Most vaccinations• Select blood tests, like HIV testing

Before any of these treatments can be administered, your healthcare professional, whether it’s a doctor, nurse, nurse practitioner, or any licensed medical provider must provide you with a diagnosis of your condition, the name, and purpose of the treatment recommended, its benefits and risks and a full explanation of alternative procedures if any are applicable.

Once your options have been laid out for you, you can agree to all of it, some of it, or none of it. After you make the decision, you will be required to complete and sign a consent form. This form is a legal document that confirms your participation in the decision and your agreement to have the procedure(s) performed. This document verifies that you understand what the doctor feels is necessary to provide the best care possible. 

But remember that you have the right to refuse treatment. If the doctor(s) or medical facility makes you feel rushed or uncomfortable, or if you have further questions, do not sign any forms until you’re comfortable. 

Ask about a patient advocate before signing an informed consent form

If your options have been explained to you but you’re still not sure, ask if your hospital has a patient advocate on staff. Most hospitals cannot receive certain accreditations unless they make patient advocates available to go over the forms in detail with you and better explain what is being asked of you. 

Signing a medical consent form does not free your doctor of all liability 

While many patients believe that signing a form means that they’ve relinquished all of their rights, this is untrue. Your signature on a consent form means that you’ve allowed your doctor to perform a procedure based on your knowledge and understanding of that particular procedure and the other options. You are still legally required to receive ethical and professional care. Do not falsely assume that you have no legal rights simply because you signed a form. 

If you feel that something went wrong during a medical procedure, or if you’re unsure about the information you were given prior to treatment, you may have a case – even if you signed a consent form. Contact the Law Offices of Nicholas Parr in Baltimore, MD today with any questions or to discuss your case. We don’t receive a fee unless we win.

Car Crash Lawyer in Maryland  

Car Accident In Maryland with UnInsured Motorist

With Covid restrictions loosening up and more people getting back to their everyday routines, it’s no surprise that there are more cars on the road than in previous years. And more cars means more accidents. According to a Maryland Department of Transportation website, there were 79 reported motor vehicle crash fatalities in Maryland as of 3/1/2022. Even in non-fatal car accidents, injuries and long-term consequences can lead to years of disability challenges and serious financial hardship.

To minimize the effects a traffic accident can have on your life, there are several steps you can take:

Things to do immediately after a car accident

A car crash leaves everyone involved shocked, disoriented, and unsure of what to do first. There are half a dozen steps to take to ensure the best possible outcome:

  1. Make sure everyone is safe and off to the side of the road to ensure further accidents from approaching cars
  2. Document the scene immediately by taking photos or videos with your phone or making notes of everything you can remember
  3. Collect information from any other driver(s) involved and get contact information from potential witnesses before they leave the scene
  4. Notify your insurance company
  5. Save all medical and car repair invoices
  6. Chronicle any injuries in a journal

Types of accidents for which the other driver may be liable

If you are the victim in a car accident, there is a wide range of activities the other driver could have been participating in that could lead to their being found negligent. Rather than investigate the other driver’s conduct yourself, it’s best to retain an attorney who can research whether he/she was:

  • Exceeding the speed limit
  • Driving while drowsy*
  • Texting, talking on phone without a hands-free device or otherwise driving while distracted
  • Driving under the influence
  • Driving aggressively
  • Disobeying traffic laws
  • Knowingly driving an unsafe/unregistered vehicle

*While Maryland doesn’t have a specific law regulating how long you can drive without taking a break, the state considers a driver who falls asleep behind the wheel to be impaired even if drugs and alcohol aren’t involved. [PC1] 

What are your rights if you’ve been injured in a car crash in Maryland?

When a car accident leads to fatalities or serious injury, the state will most likely prosecute the driver at fault. But any sort of criminal prosecution will not assist you in recovering expenses incurred for medical bills, car repairs, lost wages, etc. Talk to an experienced auto accident lawyer to determine the best course of action as you’ll most likely have to deal with the other driver’s, and possibly your own, insurance company to receive the compensation you deserve. In the event several parties are involved,

e.g., both insurance companies, either driver’s employer, automakers, etc., things can get very complicated very quickly. Make sure to choose an attorney with extensive experience dealing with such complex issues.

Most importantly, do not accept any offer in the event an insurance adjuster contacts you and offers a quick settlement before you consult an attorney. This will always be far less than what the company, not to mention a jury, believes you are entitled to. In 2016, Ryan Burke suffered serious back injuries as a result of a traffic accident in Orlando. After his lawyers recommended that he reject a pre-trial settlement of $400,000 from the insurance company, he eventually agreed to a final settlement of more than $6.6 million.

Can I sue my own insurance company following a car accident?

Believe it or not, this may be your best course of action. In the event the at-fault driver does not have adequate insurance coverage to pay for your damages, or any insurance at all, your injuries and damages may be covered if your policy contains Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) coverage. This can also apply if you are involved in a hit-and-run accident and the other driver can’t be found. Keep in mind that Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist coverage is elective on most policies. Make sure your policy contains it and that you’ve purchased coverage at an adequate level. In most cases, uninsured motorist benefits cannot exceed the amount of the primary coverage. For example, if you have $100,000 in coverage, you can only have up to $100,000 in uninsured motorist benefits.

Also remember that most insurance companies, even your own, are known for making low-ball offers, denying legitimate claims, and doing just about any and everything else possible to thwart an attempt to receive maximum compensation. An experienced auto accident attorney will document your losses, help navigate the insurance company’s network of red tape and aggressively advocate for the maximum payout that you deserve.

Things to know about a car crash in Maryland

If you want to receive a successful settlement after a car crash, keep these things in mind:

  • The statute of limitations for car crash lawsuits is three years. If an out-of-court settlement isn’t reached, you must file a lawsuit within three years of the accident date.
  • There are several types of car accident lawsuits. These include claims for negligence, negligent entrustment (an owner letting someone else drive his/her car), respondeat superior (e.g., suing a trucking company for an accident caused by one of its drivers), breach of contract, wrongful death and survival action. An experienced attorney will tell you which of these best apply to your case.
  • Insurance companies can fight you with an array of defenses. Be sure your attorney educates you on common defense tactics like contributory negligence, assumption of the risk and sudden medical emergency.
  • There are solutions if no insurance is available at all. An accident victim with no access to insurance can make a claim against the Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund (MAIF or Maryland Auto) through its unsatisfied claim and judgment (UCJ) division.
  • Compensation is available for several types of damages. This includes economic damages such as expenses, non-economic damages like pain and suffering, inconvenience, etc., punitive damages (if malice is found), collateral source (recovering additional damages from an at-fault driver even if your insurance company has already compensated you). 

If you have been injured in an auto accident in Maryland, whether you were a passenger or pedestrian, an experienced lawyer can help you determine which course of action is best for you. Contact the Law Offices of Nicholas Parr in Baltimore, MD today to schedule your free consultation. We don’t receive a fee unless we win.

Maryland Renters Rights

Maryland Renters Rights

Recent news that weather prognosticator Punxsutawney Phil came out of his tree stump to tell us we’re in for six more weeks of winter brought a collective groan from those of us looking forward to warmer days. The frosty weather, combined with Covid isolation, has kept us cooped up inside our houses for what feels like an eternity.

But what if your home provides no relief from the chill?

Throughout the Maryland and D.C. area, renters in apartments with inadequate heat start their day with a brutal reminder that winter is still very much upon us. Many times, it’s just as cold inside the apartment as it is outside. With enforcement infrequent or even non-existent, renters are left to fend for themselves in coming up with ways to keep themselves and their families warm. These creative but often dangerous methods include:

  • Permanent use of space heaters that are designed to be temporary solutions
  • Sealing off windows with tape and plastic
  • Leaving running ovens open and boiling pots of water on stoves

This quest for a little basic, simple warmth can lead to disastrous occurrences. In January, a malfunctioning electrical heater in a New York City apartment started a fire that killed 17 people, including eight children. Even space heaters that work properly pose a risk: placing one fewer than three feet from a couch, bed or other combustible can cause a fire. Space heaters should never be plugged into an extension cord or power strip, which could overheat and result in a fire. Plug them directly into wall outlets and be sure not to plug any other electrical devices into the same outlet as the heater. Additionally, residents who leave their ovens open to heat their house or apartment expose themselves to carbon monoxide poisoning, especially if they’ve also sealed off their windows.

Know your rights as a Maryland renter

As a renter, you’re entitled to an adequately heated apartment or house. Baltimore County Code § 35-4-202 mandates that “Between October 15 and April 15, inclusive, of each year, the owner of every building containing one, two, or three rental dwelling units must comply with the following:”

  • When the outdoor temperature is 10 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer, the landlord/owner must, if the heating is not under the individual control of the tenant, provide adequate heating to maintain a temperature of at least 65 degrees Fahrenheit in all rooms – as measured from the center of the rooms at a height of 3 feet above the floor.
  • When the outdoor temperature is 10 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer, the landlord/owner must, if the heating is under the individual control of the tenant, provide equipment in working order that is capable of maintaining a temperature of at least 65 degrees Fahrenheit in all rooms – as measured from the center of the rooms at a height of 3 feet above the floor.

What can you do if these conditions aren’t met?

Stop paying rent or terminate your rental agreement

If your landlord isn’t meeting the minimum requirements above, the fastest way to get his/her attention is to withhold your rent payments or terminate your lease. In some cases, this may require you to take your landlord to court, but the threat of such an expensive hassle might be enough to compel your landlord to provide adequate heating. Also, threatening to move means that your landlord is going to have to spend time and money to find a new tenant, during which time the apartment sits empty earning no income. Your landlord might decide it’s in his/her best interest to keep you happy and in place by simply doing what’s required.

Make the fixes yourself and bill your landlord

In the event your landlord is legally required to provide heat yet fails to do so because of faulty equipment, you can make any necessary repairs yourself or have a professional do it and deduct the cost from your rent. However, not paying rent can lead to legal trouble, so make sure to inform your landlord of the problem in writing, propose a reasonable time limit for him/her to address the issue, and provide notification that you will pay for the repairs yourself and deduct the total spent from your rent.

Notify Baltimore County of any heating violations by your landlord

Finally, in the event the landlord/owner continues to fail to meet the minimum heating mandates, you can ask the police to make a report. You will be provided with a copy of the report, which you can then present to a District Court Commissioner to request charging the landlord with a criminal violation of the Code.

If the Commissioner finds probable cause that your landlord isn’t following the law, the Commissioner will issue a statement of charges against the landlord and set a trial date, usually within two weeks of the date of your complaint. Even if the landlord restores the service before the trial date, the trial will take place.

Once the landlord/owner is officially notified of the violations, he/she is typically given a set amount of time within which the situation must be remedied. If the landlord fails to correct the problem within that time, you may use any remedy or defense provided by the County Rent Escrow Law. This law allows you to pay your rent directly to the court so that those funds may be used to pay for the necessary repairs.

At this time, the landlord/owner may be assessed the following penalties:

  • $250.00 for the first violation and failure to comply
  • $500.00 for the second violation and failure to comply
  • $1,000.00 for any further violation and failure to comply

If you’re a renter living without heat, an experienced lawyer can help you determine which course of action is best for you. Contact the Law Offices of Nicholas Parr in Baltimore, MD today to schedule your free consultation. We don’t receive a fee unless we win.