Ohio state malpractice laws have undergone substantial changes over the past decade. No consensus has yet developed to determine whether the changes will survive constitutional challenges at the state Supreme Court level in Ohio.
Ohio Medical Malpractice Laws
However, the fact remains that at least for the time being, those changes have reduced the possibility for parties to recover damages to compensate for injuries resulting from medical malpractice events in Ohio. A party that has suffered such an injury will be best protected if he or she consults with a qualified plaintiff’s medical malpractice attorney as soon as is possible after discovering the injury, as well as by taking a moment to gain a cursory understanding of the basics of Ohio medical malpractice law, as of 2016.
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Getting Started with Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit in Ohio
The most important issue relating to state malpractice laws in Ohio is recognizing how the state defines viable grounds for claims of negligence, what constitutes negligent medical care, and finally, whether comparative negligence may vitiate the ability of a patient to recover damage amounts. While an undesirable outcome in a medical procedure is unfortunate, the damages or even ensuing complications alone are insufficient grounds for filing a viable medical negligence tort claim in Ohio, as well as virtually all other states. A successful medical malpractice claim first requires a plaintiff’s attorney to demonstrate and explain the applicable medical standards that apply to the specific procedure or treatment that is in question, and then to show that the physician or other medical professional failed to meet those standards. Like almost all other states, Ohio has imposed several procedural and administrative requirements that must be satisfied to successfully prosecute a malpractice claim.
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Medical Expert Testimony Requirements in the State of Ohio Regarding Medical Malpractice Claims Filings
Ohio medical malpractice cases must be supported by an affidavit of merit that has been executed by a qualified medical expert to verify the validity of the malpractice claims. The expert’s opinion will be utilized to determine the applicable standard of care for the medical procedure or specialty that is at issue in the case. Expert testimony will also establish whether and to what extent the medical provider’s judgment or skill breached that standard, and that it was the direct or proximate cause of the injuries.
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Plaintiffs in Ohio Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Have the Responsibility to Prepare and Present a Viable Claims Case
In any medical malpractice lawsuit, patients are required by law to provide and meet the burden of proof required, which is beyond a preponderance of the evidence, to present a viable medical malpractice lawsuit. Critical key points that will empower patient efforts in seeking compensation for negligent medical care in Ohio, as well as present a viable claims case to the civil courts in Ohio for a medical malpractice cause of action include understanding the following:
- Medical expert testimony: Relying upon the legal theory of the applicable standard of care, malpractice is the breach or failure to adhere to a reasonable standard of care. Given the complexity and expert nature of the medical professional, Ohio requires that plaintiffs obtain a medical expert affidavit supporting the claim that a given instance of medical care was, in fact, negligent per a reasonable standard of care by a similar practicing medical professional
- Statutes of Limitation: These deadlines or timeframes for filing medical malpractice claims will vary from state to state, and even under the jurisdiction of Ohio, differing claimants and claims cases involving medical negligence causes of action incur differing statutorily limited filing periods.
- Vicarious or Joint Liability: Under Ohio’s medical malpractice laws, a claimant cannot recover damages, nor feasibly file a worthwhile suit without facing a bar to recovery, if it is adjudicated that a patient is proportionally the most responsible party for the damages incurred. However, other parties aside from an allegedly negligently performing medical professional, such as hospitals, may be held vicariously liable under Ohio medical malpractice law
The Statutes of Limitations Periods Present under Ohio Medical Negligence Tort Law
Ohio gives an injured party a very short period in which to pursue a medical malpractice claim under the existing statutes of limitation in the state. An injured party must file his or her malpractice lawsuit within one year after the incident or medical treatment that caused the injury. Should a patient suffer an injury immediately during a particular treatment and is aware of that injury, the patient would have a year to pursue the case or risk losing the legal right to do so. However, for instances involving delayed discovery or delayed onset of harms, patients have a year from the date whereby a reasonable individual would have discovered the existence of the damages in question. However, in Ohio in particular, no medical malpractice cases can be filed in Ohio more than four years after the event that first caused the injury unless the claim involves a foreign object that was left inside a body cavity after surgery. In this latter case, an injured party has one year to initiate a lawsuit after the discovery of the foreign object.
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Comparative Negligence, Joint Liability Cases, and Other Multi-Party Considerations in an Ohio Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
Ohio follows a modified comparative negligence standard, which can eliminate an injured party’s opportunity to recover damages if that party is more than 51% responsible for the injuries. If an injured party is less than 51% responsible, then his or her monetary award will be reduced in proportion to his or her relative responsibility for the injury.
Ohio also follows vicarious liability, and joint and several liability standards. Under vicarious liability standards, a hospital may be liable for medical malpractice injuries caused by an employee defendant. Regarding joint and several liabilities of multiple defendants who participated in causing an injury, Ohio imposes liability for injuries on each defendant in proportion to their percentage of fault.
Statutory Damage Caps in Ohio Medical Malpractice Trial Awards
Lastly, like many other states, Ohio limits the amount of non-economic damages (i.e. damages for pain and suffering) that a party can recover in medical malpractice cases. Those damages are currently capped at the greater of $250,000.00 or three times the economic damages (e.g. amounts paid by an injured party for extra medical costs and expenses) up to a maximum of $350,000.00 per plaintiff or $500,000.00 in cases involving multiple plaintiffs. These limits are increased to $500,000 and $1 million in the event of catastrophic or lifelong injuries.
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