If you were injured by a doctor or hospital, you and your family might be entitled to compensation in a medical malpractice lawsuit. However, medical malpractice cases are notoriously complex and difficult to win. An experienced Ohio medical malpractice lawyer knows where the potential pitfalls are and can help you avoid them. One such pitfall is Ohio’s statute of repose, which limits the amount of time a medical malpractice victim has to file a lawsuit.
Medical Malpractice Is Not Always Clear
Medical malpractice means that a doctor or other medical care provider made a mistake. In some cases, medical malpractice is obvious, such as when a surgical team leaves a sponge or other surgical instrument inside a patient, when a doctor amputates the wrong limb, or when tests results were mixed up.
Other times, medical malpractice is not so clear. In some cases, you may not know that you suffered an adverse result until years after the procedure or treatment. Other times, it may not be clear what happened and who is at fault: Why did my family member suffer and anoxic brain injury during surgery? Why does my child suffer from cerebral palsy? Was it the surgeon or a nursing staff member that caused the overdose death? A consulting physician? Or maybe it wasn’t malpractice at all, but instead your medical problems were caused by a dangerous drug.
Because medical malpractice claims can be so complex, it is important to understand that there are strict time limits that apply to filing a claim for medical malpractice. In fact, Ohio has one of the shortest time frames to file a medical malpractice lawsuit in the country.
Ohio’s Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice Claims
Under R.C. 2305.113, someone who believes they have been the victim of medical malpractice must file a lawsuit within 1 year of the event giving rise to the claim, or within 1 year after discovering the malpractice, otherwise the claim is barred. In Ohio, the 1 year time limit starts to run on the latest of one of three dates:
- When the medical malpractice occurred
- When the plaintiff, through the exercise of reasonable care and diligence, should have discovered the malpractice, or
- When the doctor-patient relationship ends
Determining when each of these events occurred can more difficult than it might initially appear.
For example, if you were injured during surgery, you would have 1 year from the date of the surgery in which to file a lawsuit.
If you don’t learn of the injury until later, you have 1 year from the date you first learned of the problem or the date you should have learned about the problem. But this time frame is limited by the Statute of Repose, discussed below.
Ohio applies a “reasonable person” standard, which means the statute of limitations starts to run when a “reasonable person” would have first thought there was a problem.
For example, if you started suffering hip pain after a hip surgery you would have 1 year from the date you started suffering pain after the surgery, not the date you received confirmation that there was a problem. Ohio applies a “reasonable person” standard, which means the statute of limitations starts to run when a “reasonable person” would have first thought there was a problem.
And if you have an on-going relationship with the physician, the statute of limitations might not start to run until the doctor stopped treating you.
Extending the Statute of Limitations with a 180 Day Letter
Ohio allows victims of medical malpractice to extend the statute of limitations by notifying the defendants of a potential claim against them. This is known as a “180 day letter”. The letter must be sent within the 1 year statute of limitations period and extends the time limit for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit by 180 days. However, there are significant pitfalls to using the 180 day letter, the most important of which is that if you fail to identify the correct medical provider you forfeit your claims against that defendant.
Ohio’s Statute of Repose – A Limitation on the Statute of Limitations
As if these limitations aren’t enough, Ohio imposes a “statute of repose” on medical malpractice claims. A statute of repose is like a limit on the statute of limitations. In Ohio, the statute of repose is 4 years, which means that you must bring a medical malpractice claim within 4 years, otherwise you lose the right to sue for your injuries.
There are two important exceptions to the statute of repose. The first is that the statute of repose does not apply to cases where a foreign object is left in your body during surgery. The second is if you discover the injury more than 3 years after the time of the malpractice but before the 4 year statute of repose is up. In this case, you have the full year to bring a claim for medical malpractice.
To qualify for either of these exceptions, the plaintiff must prove by “clear and convincing evidence” (a higher standard of proof than in most civil cases), that the plaintiff could not have discovered the injury through reasonable care and diligence any earlier.
Robenalt Law Helps Victims of Ohio Medical Malpractice
If you or someone you care about was injured because a doctor or other medical care provider did not meet their duty to properly care for you, you might have a claim for medical malpractice and could be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering caused by the injury. If you have questions, we can obtain the records and get you answers and we only get paid if we get you a recovery.
Tom Robenalt started his litigation career representing doctors and hospitals at a large firm in Cleveland. For the past 25 years, he has used that experience to help victims and the families of those injured to secure compensation for medical malpractice.