f you’re injured by a doctor, you may be entitled to compensation through a medical malpractice lawsuit. In Ohio in 2017, the most recent year for which data is available, there were more than 2,428 medical malpractice claims. About 644 of those resulted in payments; the total medical malpractice payouts for the year totaled more than $279 million.
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As a general rule, in the state of Ohio, you have one year to bring a medical malpractice lawsuit. The one year period starts to run from the date the injury occurred. So, for example, if a surgery went wrong, you have one calendar year from the surgery date to bring a claim against the hospital. Once a claim is filed, most Ohio medical malpractice lawsuits follow a consistent timeline.
Read on to find out about some of the nuance contained in Ohio’s medical malpractice laws.
What is medical malpractice?
“Medical malpractice” refers to mistakes made by doctors and other medical care providers. Sometimes, medical malpractice is obvious. In some cases, patients have been treated mistakenly for cancer when their test results were mixed up, had the wrong limb amputated, and had surgical instruments left inside them. In other cases, the malpractice is subtle and harder to detect. Perhaps the patient was prescribed the wrong medication or the pharmacy mixed up the prescription. Perhaps the doctor was tired and misdiagnosed a serious condition. Perhaps a surgeon made an error and caused an injury during surgery.
Medical malpractice may be either intentional or unintentional. Sometimes, doctors just make mistakes. They work long hours and their jobs are difficult. There are systems in place to prevent such mistakes, but sometimes those systems fail. On the other hand, medical malpractice may be intentional. For example, there have been several cases of con-men taking positions as doctors without any medical training and causing serious injuries.
Medical Malpractice Claims
If you’re injured by a doctor’s error or omission, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and decreased quality of life. In order to claim that compensation, you’ll need to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.
In order to win compensation from the court, you’ll need to show that the doctor, medical professional, or hospital is guilty of medical malpractice. Legally, a doctor is guilty of medical malpractice when she deviates from the reasonable standard of care for her patient. In other words, doctors are obliged to adhere to best practices and do their best to care for their patients. Not every medical error qualifies as medical malpractice; the error or omission must fall outside the standard of care. For example, if a doctor writes a prescription and a nurse fails to check that the prescription she gives you is the right one, that may qualify as medical malpractice.
Causation must be proven
In addition to showing that the doctor or medical professional made an error or omission, you’ll need to show that the error resulted in your injury. For example, if you didn’t suffer any negative consequences from taking the wrong medication, you don’t have a medical malpractice case.
Finally, the injury must be substantial. A medical malpractice suit is complicated; you’re going to need a lot of expert testimony and the lawsuit will take a long time. The longer the suit lasts, the more it’s going to cost. You may be able to sue for a relatively small amount, but it won’t be worth it. You won’t win enough to make the expense worthwhile. Typically, it’s worth your time to sue for medical malpractice if you’re facing substantial medical bills or will be missing a lot of work.
Ohio Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations
If you’ve continued to see the same doctor for the same issue, you have a year from the date that you ended your relationship with that doctor — the date of your last appointment.
An expert tip from Doug Mann
You may choose to continue to see the doctor who injured you for a number of reasons; that doctor is familiar with your case and may have ideas about how to remedy the situation. The law is designed so that you can give your doctor a chance to right the wrong without forfeiting your right to sue.
Notice to doctor can extend timeline
Within your 1-year statutory period, you may choose to send a notice to the doctor that you are looking into filing a claim. If you send that notice, you have 180 days from the date the doctor received that notice to file. That can give you an extra six months on top of the standard statute of limitations. In addition, you have the right to a “Rule 41(a) Dismissal,” in which you choose to dismiss your own case and refile it within one year. You can only exercise a Rule 41(a) Dismissal one time.
Statute of Repose
A statute of repose is a sort of limit on the statute of limitations. In Ohio, the statute of repose for medical malpractice is 4 years. In other words, you must bring a suit within 4 years or you lose the right to sue. There are two exceptions. First, if you discover the injury after 3 years have passed but before the 4-year mark, you have a full year in which to bring a claim. Second, the statute of repose does not apply to situations in which a foreign object is left in your body during a procedure. If you discover an injury more than 4 years after the injury actually occurred, you generally don’t have a right to sue for medical malpractice.
Wrongful Death vs. Medical Malpractice
Ohio allows two different types of wrongful death suits related to medical malpractice. First, the patient’s estate may sue for personal loss and suffering prior to death. Second, the spouse and next of kin may bring a wrongful death claim for pecuniary loss. These suits must be brought within 2 years of the patient’s death. In addition, wrongful death suits are not limited by the statutes of limitation and repose for medical malpractice. In other words, wrongful death suits may still be brought if the patient dies 5 years after the injury.
Filing a Claim
Whenever you have a medical procedure, you should keep careful records of any medical treatment you receive. That’s doubly true if you’re injured in the procedure; you should also record any time you’re forced to take off work and any other expenses you incur as a result of your injury.
If you’ve been injured by medical malpractice, you may be entitled to compensation. A medical malpractice suit is complex and requires a lot of time. The sooner you file, the more time your attorneys have to put together your case. Contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible for a free consultation to discuss your case.