In Ohio, medical malpractice occurs when a doctor, hospital, or other medical professional or institution injures a patient by failing to meet the applicable standard of care. If a plaintiff can prove this, he may be eligible for economic, non-economic, and punitive damages.
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Economic damages are designed to make a plaintiff financially whole for such things as medical costs and lost income. Non-economic damages deal with the pain and suffering aspect of medical malpractice. In certain instances, punitive damages may also be available to a plaintiff in the event of egregious behavior on the part of the provider.
The state of Ohio enacted a law in 2003 that limited the amount of pain and suffering damages to which a plaintiff may be entitled. Punitive damages awards are also capped.
Bringing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
To have a chance to recover damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit, a plaintiff must prove the following four elements:
- The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care. This element is typically satisfied by showing that a physician-patient relationship existed;
- There is a standard of care that governs the defendant’s conduct.This refers to those things that a medical professional or institution of ordinary skill, care, and diligence would (or would not) have done under similar circumstances;
- The defendant breached that standard of care, and
- The defendant’s breach caused the plaintiff’s injury.
Ohio requires an “Affidavit of Merit” from a medical expert witness before you may proceed with your medical malpractice lawsuit. The expert witness, who is typically a doctor or licensed healthcare professional, must declare under oath that he or she:
- Has reviewed all medical records available to the plaintiff;
- Is familiar with the standard of care that applies to the plaintiff’s treatment;
- Believes that the standard of care was not met, and
- Believes that the plaintiff was injured as a result.
Damages You May Recover
Compensatory (or Economic) Damages
Compensatory Damages, sometimes known as Economic Damages, are those damages that you actually incur such as medical costs, reimbursement for lost wages, and compensation for lack of future earnings. Generally, you can be fully compensated for all of the financial damages that you can prove.
Non-Economic (or Pain and Suffering) Damages
Non-Economic Damages, which are often called Pain and Suffering Damages, include such things as pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life. Responding to the medical community’s lobbying to find a legislative solution to reduce these pain and suffering rewards, in 2003 Ohio legislators put a cap on pain and suffering damages that a patient may recover.
These damages are limited to $250,000, or three times the economic damages, whichever is greater, up to a maximum of $350,000 per plaintiff. If there is more than one plaintiff, the damage cap is $500,000.
Previous caps on damages had been held to be unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court. However, the constitutionality of this cap was upheld in Arbino v. Johnson & Johnson. In certain instances, the plaintiff’s injuries may be found to be catastrophic. These injuries include those that result in:
- Permanent and substantial physical deformity;
- Loss of use of a limb;
- Loss of use of a bodily organ system, or;
- Permanent physical functional injury that prevents the injured person from being able to care for self and perform life-sustaining activities.
There are many injuries that can and should be considered catastrophic. Some examples include amputation, full or partial paralysis, serious burn injuries, and other significant scarring, and some types of traumatic brain injury. Ohio allows the cap to be bumped up to $500,000 per plaintiff or $1 million per case if the malpractice caused certain permanent and/or catastrophic injuries.
Punitive damages seek to punish the health care provider for particularly egregious behavior. The damage cap for punitive damage is twice the amount of compensatory damages.
However, if the defendant is a small employer or individual, punitive damages cannot exceed 10 percent of the employer’s or individual’s net worth or twice the amount of compensatory damages, whichever amount is smaller.
No Damage Cap For Wrongful Death Lawsuit
If a loved one has passed away due to medical malpractice, the family has a separate claim known as a wrongful death lawsuit. Pursuant to the Ohio Constitution, the amount of damages recoverable for a wrongful death cannot be limited by law. Therefore, the previously mentioned caps do not apply to wrongful death cases that arise from medical malpractice.
Medical malpractice is one of the most complex areas of the law. Proving causation between your health care professional’s actions and your injury requires knowledgeable and skillful legal practitioners. We have the experience and track record to help you get the results you deserve. Contact us today to set up a free consultation.