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Medical malpractice is a very complex case area, given that it intersects between medical and legal fields. Some of the complexities include proving the negligence of the doctor or hospital and determining the applicable standard of medical care. Maine medical malpractice laws can be pretty straightforward compared to other states. For instance, the law does not have specific requirements for medical expert witnesses. 

However, a Mainer’s negligence claim usually has to undergo a pre-litigation hearing similar to a trial before the court deems it admissible. This means additional work and financial expenditures for parties in a medical malpractice case.

In 2022, the Pine Tree State had a moderate number of claims, with 289 reports out of the 4,969 unique practitioners. There were also 33 claims reported to have had payments during the same year. The data is lifted from the National Practitioner Data Bank’s self-query tool. 

Such data reveals that medical malpractice cases are complex and exhausting, and there is a high likelihood of not recovering compensation from these cases. For this reason, injured Mainers are recommended to seek a medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible. 

This may not always be the case, though.

In 2019, the Penobscot County jury awarded $2 million in compensation to a patient who underwent surgery for an injured wrist. The surgeon had left a screw on the wrist, and the patient suffered permanent damage as a result. 

This article serves as a guide for patients who believe they may have suffered from the negligence of a medical professional. These injured patients can find information such as the legal background of medical malpractice cases, deadlines, and the cost of pursuing a lawsuit.  

What Qualifies as Medical Malpractice in Maine?

Medical malpractice is a kind of professional negligence by a healthcare provider. However, non-negligent mistakes and ordinary negligence may not necessarily be malpractice. For example, providing a conservative dose that did not work on the patient can be a mistake but not negligent. 

When negligence leads to such severe harm that the patient needs treatment or dies, malpractice may be considered. In addition, the harm must also have had a significant impact on the patient’s life.

Some examples of these cases include:

  • Ignoring vital signs indicating the patient’s worsened state.

  • Proving delayed treatment resulting in the death of the patient.

  • Administering the wrong medication leading to a serious medical condition.

  • Operating on the wrong organ or part of the body.

  • Failing to diagnose cancer prompting a more aggressive treatment to be used.

  • Misreading diagnostic results.

To have a viable claim, medical malpractice laws in Maine require the patient to prove that the negligence resulted in the harm. The Maine Supreme Court drove home this point when it issued an explanation in several notable cases. According to the court, the act of negligence alone, as in the case of Merriam-v-Wanger, does not constitute liability, but proving the harm can suffice in establishing liability. 

Who Can You Sue for Medical Malpractice in Maine?

Various types of medical providers in Maine can be liable for malpractice. These are not limited to medical doctors but also include:

  • Nurses.

  • Pharmacists.

  • Psychologists.

  • Phlebotomists.

  • Physician assistants.

  • Dentists.

  • Lab technicians.

  • Chiropractors.

It is not only persons that can be sued but also entities such as:

  • Nursing homes.

  • Hospitals.

  • Urgent care clinics.


In Maine, it may be difficult to bring a medical malpractice lawsuit against government entities and professionals due to some protections afforded by the Maine Tort Claims Act. This is supported by the announcement from the Maine Supreme Court that state hospitals are given “the broad general immunity provided by the Tort Claims Act.” The announcement was issued through a decision on a notable 1987 case against the Augusta Mental Health Institute. 

However, the same Act waives immunity for wrongful death cases. This means wrongful death actions arising from medical malpractice can be brought against any government entity or employee. 

Good samaritans, or individuals who help injured people during emergencies, are also given some liability immunity. Under the Maine Good Samaritan Law, people who provide emergency aid in good faith may not be sued for a civil action. Additionally, the aid must also have been rendered with the consent of the injured person and away from the premises of a medical facility. 

However, the state law will no longer shield good samaritans whose omissions or acts constitute gross negligence. This further means the law only protects ordinary forms of negligence. 

Medical Malpractice Liability Insurance Requirements

There are no laws in Maine requiring medical malpractice liability insurance. However, most hospital systems require physicians to have such insurance. Medical organizations such as the Maine Hospital Association and the Maine Medical Association endorse some insurance providers on their websites. 

The most common insurance coverage limits in Maine are $1 million per claim and an aggregate limit of $3 million per year. It is noteworthy that payouts from medical malpractice claims in the state are one of the highest in the country. In 2021, the average payout was $0.71 million, according to data from the National Practitioner Data Bank.

What Is the Statute of Limitations in Maine for Medical Malpractice Cases?

There is a three-year deadline for a medical malpractice lawsuit to be filed in Maine. It starts on the day the injury happened, not the day the injury was discovered, as is allowed in some states. 

This has important implications for malpractice victims. Their legal opportunity to file a claim may potentially expire before they are able to discover their injuries.

Only the case of “foreign objects” accidentally left inside the patient’s body is exempt from the statute of limitations. In this case, the three-year deadline starts on the day the patient reasonably discovers the harm. 

However, there are special provisions for this deadline:

  • Minors - cases involving minors have a different deadline, which is six years after the injury happened. Alternatively, a medical malpractice lawsuit can be filed three years after the minor reaches 18 years old, whichever expires first. 

  • Mentally ill - medical malpractice victims suffering from mental illness also have a different deadline. In this case, the deadline becomes three years after the illness is removed. 

  • Continuing Negligent Treatment Doctrine - there is an additional provision for cases in Maine involving two or more related acts or omissions from a single medical provider or practitioner. Called the Continuous Treatment Doctrine, the provision, issued in 2011, allows the three-year deadline to start after the last act or omission happened. 

What Do You Need to Prove in a Maine Medical Malpractice Case?

Persons harmed by medical malpractice may be able to recover compensation if the following elements are successfully proven:

  • The medical provider owes the patient a standard of care.

  • There was a breach in the standard of care.

  • The harm proximately resulted from the breach.

  • The patient suffered losses from the harm.

Presuit Requirements

Before a lawsuit can be filed, the patient must submit a claim to a pre-litigation screening panel through a superior court in Maine. Afterward, the medical provider alleged to be negligent must also be served with the claim notice. Proof of such notice service must be submitted to the court within 90 days.

Alternatively, the victim can have the notice of claim served to the defendant first and then file the claim in court after 20 days.

Pre-Litigation Hearing and Mediation

Both parties to the claim must present their case before the screening panel during the hearing. They can submit their evidence and provide testimonies from their own medical experts.

The panel will then analyze the claim and issue a decision within 30 days. Its purpose is to weed out frivolous claims and allow the court to focus on cases with merit. 

The panel’s chair will also attempt to mediate the dispute before findings are issued.  

When the panel unanimously rules in favor of the victim, a negotiation must take place to pay the victim. The claim can also be taken to court litigation for enforcement, upon which the panel's findings shall be admissible.  

If the panel unanimously rules in favor of the defendant, the victim must withdraw the claim without any compensation.

Both parties can agree to skip this hearing and proceed directly to court litigation. 

Medical Expert Qualifications

In Maine, there are no specific requirements regarding the qualifications of the medical expert, unlike in other states. The Maine Supreme Court has repeatedly issued opinions, allowing the trial judge “wide discretion” to determine if the medical expert is qualified.

Essentially, the medical expert is deemed qualified so long as they have relevant medical expertise in the case at hand. In addition to this, they must present satisfactory testimony to convince the judge. This takes precedence regardless of the expert’s practice areas, title, and other credentials. 

“I’m Sorry” Law

Under the Maine I’m Sorry laws, any communication of sympathy from a medical practitioner cannot be used as evidence of liability. The communication method can be in the form of a statement, conduct, or gesture expressed to the injured or any member of their party. 

Medical Consent Forms

Signing a medical consent form does not mean a patient can waive their right to sue a negligent doctor. Such a general consent form is usually handed out to the patient upon admission to the hospital or before a medical procedure. 

However, a doctor or hospital must follow the proper protocol for informed consent. If they do so, they cannot be held liable if the treatment or medical procedure leads to unfavorable or adverse results. This applies so long as they do not violate any standard of medical care.

How Much Can You Sue for Medical Malpractice in Maine?

Several factors can affect the compensation awarded in a medical malpractice case in Maine. These factors include the severity of the negligence, the extent of the injuries and their effect on the victim, and the defendant’s finances. Eventually, the payout would also depend on the strength of the evidence and how good the victim’s legal team is. 

Case in point: A $10 million settlement was awarded to the mother of a boy who suffered injuries from abuse, including blindness and brain damage. The mother filed a negligence claim against the federally funded medical clinic that treated the abuse for failing to report it to the authorities.

In general, the worth of a claim can be estimated by determining the damages — the legal term for compensation — and assigning a value for each type. 

Types of Damages

These types of compensatory damages are actual, punitive, and general. 

Actual damages are for expenses that can be accounted for. General damages are given to compensate for losses that are difficult to place a value on.

Punitive damages are rarely awarded in court and are given when there is clear and strong evidence of the defendant’s malicious intentions.

The following table summarizes the types of damages:

Type of damages



Actual damages

- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Therapy costs
- Prescription costs


General damages

- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment in life
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of earning potential

None, except in wrongful death cases where there is a limit of $1 million for losses such as emotional distress and loss of companionship

Punitive damages

- An award given to punish the defendant for severely malicious acts and deter others

None, except in wrongful death cases where the limit is $500,000. 

Negligence System

Maine follows the modified comparative negligence doctrine under a 50% bar rule when the victim contributed to their injuries. Under the doctrine, the victim can still recover compensation so long as they are less than 50% at fault. This goes to say that the victim should not be more at fault than the defendant to be able to secure compensation. 

As a reference, let’s say the victim is found to be 10% at fault for their injuries. They were awarded $1 million in court, but the final amount received was only $900,000. The $100,000 deducted from the award is the 10% fault allocation. 

Apportioning fault in cases with multiple defendants

There are two methods of apportioning fault in cases where there are multiple defendants: the individual comparison and the combined comparison methods. Each method can lead to greatly different outcomes.

When using the individual comparison method, the victim’s fault is measured against each defendant’s fault. The victim may only be able to recover compensation from the defendant whose fault is greater than theirs. 

For the combined comparison method, the victim can recover compensation if their fault is less than or equal to the combined faults of all the defendants. 

Methods of Obtaining Compensation

Many medical malpractice claims in Maine are resolved through settlement negotiation, although a few can make it through trial. Sometimes, cases are resolved through mediation or arbitration. 

Given the complexity of the aforementioned rules and requirements, victims are advised to seek a lawyer in their metro early in the case. The lawyer can help them gather evidence and build a strong case by working with medical experts. 

How Much Does It Cost to Pursue a Medical Malpractice Case in Maine?

It is estimated that the claimants’ legal expenses typically cost almost twice as much as the defendants', so a medical malpractice case is costly. However, there are some practices in the legal industry that favorably enable the injured to jumpstart their claim, regardless of their financial means. 

First, many medical malpractice law firms in Maine offer complimentary consultations. The injured can utilize this service to discuss their case with a legal professional and decide whether to retain the professional’s services. 

Second, medical malpractice lawyers in Maine usually provide services on a contingency fee basis. Through this arrangement, clients may pay the lawyer upfront to start working on the claim. Lawyers only get paid when the client receives a settlement payout or is awarded a court verdict. 

In Maine, there are limits as to how much of a percentage a lawyer can get:

  • 33 ⅓ of the first $100,000 recovered.

  • 25% of the next $100,000.

  • 20% of any amount exceeding $200,000.

Still, the lawyer can collect fees in excess of these limits by submitting a request to the court. The court will decide whether to grant the request using a number of factors. These include informing the client beforehand of this court provision, both in writing and verbally. 

Legal Resources for Medical Malpractice Victims in Maine

It can be overwhelming for trauma patients and their families to face the legal system without assistance from a legal professional. The following sections offer resources to help them gather relevant information for their case and make informed decisions.

These resources aim to point them in the right direction, whatever point they are at in their medical malpractice case.

Maine State Bar Association

The State Bar lists legal resources that can deliver various types of aid to claimants. This is a good place for the claimant to start connecting with a legal aid provider in their geographical location.

Maine Judicial Branch Legal Help and Guide

The Maine Court provides different legal resources for individuals with a court case. These individuals can learn more about the state’s eCourts or online case management system, local court locations, and Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution methods. Injured individuals who need disability accommodations for their court hearings can learn more about the provision through a Court Access Coordinator

Ask a Law Librarian

This is a service offered by the librarians at the Maine State Law and Legislative Library. These librarians will research and provide answers to questions and concerns regarding legal matters, including medical malpractice laws. They can also provide legal references to Mainers over the phone or through email or mail. Contact their number at 207-287-1600 for further details. Walk-ins are accommodated at their location on the 2nd floor of the State House on the corner of State and Capitol Streets in Augusta.

National Medical Malpractice Advocacy Association

As a victim organization, the National Medical Malpractice Advocacy Association offers legal and medical resources. Through the organization, injured persons can find patient advocates, medical malpractice lawyers, and medical case solutions. These are important resources for navigating the medical field. For further details on how the organization can help, contact them at (210) 549-7441 or

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