- Does Online Correspondence Count as “Continuous Treatment?”
- March 22, 2018
All medical malpractice lawsuits must be brought before the courts within a certain amount of time, known formally as the statute of limitations. However, there are exceptions to this rule that may allow a plaintiff to file a medical malpractice lawsuit after the appropriate statute of limitations has run out. Here the medical malpractice attorneys at the Law Offices of Peter Angelos discuss continuous treatment in relation to online correspondence.
Continuous Treatment Doctrine
In the state of Maryland, plaintiffs who allege medical malpractice against a physician must bring that lawsuit within 3 years from discovery of the injury, or 5 years from the injury. However, the continuous treatment doctrine grants the plaintiff an extended amount of time even though the statue of limitations had technically passed. The continuous treatment doctrine states that if the same doctor continues to provide treatment for the same condition a plaintiff’s claim is based on, then the statute of limitations may not begin to run until that treatment stops. The continuous treatment doctrine is often considered the most viable means a plaintiff has to counter strict statute of limitations period.
The underlying policy the continuous treatment doctrine seeks to maintain is the belief that the most effective medical care is provided when the initial attending physician remains on a case from beginning to end. Implicit in the policy is the recognition that the doctor is not only in a position to identify and correct his or her malpractice but is best placed to do so.
As technology advances so do changes to conventional practices. One such change is the decreasing reliance on in-office medical visits as online correspondence with doctors becomes more common each day. Healthcare providers today interact with patients online for various reasons, such as consultations on non-life-threatening ailments (cough, fever, etc.), a lack of accessible urgent care centers or walk in clinics, a decline in resources or limited hours and days of clinic operation.Just as continuous treatment applies to visiting a doctor in their office, the same can apply to maintaining online correspondence with a physician. For online correspondence to qualify as a continuous treatment, however, there must be an established and continuous timeline of communication that is centered around the treatment that a plaintiff’s claim is based on. The timeline of communication must show that the plaintiff was receiving regular treatment or medical advice from the defendant that in some way influenced the harm or damages suffered.