Medical malpractice occurs when a patient is harmed by a doctor or another medical professional who failed to properly perform their medical duties.
To prove a case of medical malpractice, you must be able to show all of the following:
- The existence of a doctor-patient relationship
- The doctor’s conduct fell below the acceptable standard of care (i.e., the doctor was negligent)
- The negligence caused your injuries
- The injuries caused damages
Because the results of medical negligence are often catastrophic, medical malpractice cases are almost always vigorously contested and emotionally charged, and the stakes are high.
At The Robenalt Law Firm, Inc., our medical malpractice attorneys understand that bringing a claim for medical malpractice may feel overwhelming. But we also know that medical negligence can have serious and long-lasting consequences and that victims of medical malpractice have a right to compensation.
Because the stakes are so high, we take claims of medical malpractice very seriously and fight hard to seek justice for our clients.
At The Robenalt Law Firm, Inc., we know that medical negligence can have serious and long-lasting consequences and that victims of medical malpractice have a right to compensation.
Elements of a Medical Malpractice Claim
To successfully bring a claim for medical negligence, you must prove each element of your claim by a preponderance of the evidence. This means that the event was more likely than not to have happened. This burden of proof is often described as being just a shade more than a 50% likelihood that something occurred.
A Doctor-Patient Relationship
You can only file a claim for medical negligence against a doctor who treated you. Traditionally this meant that you hired the doctor, and the doctor agreed to treat you. But with increasing specialization in the medical field, more doctors working in large hospital systems, and so many medical professionals having a role in treating a single patient, it can be difficult to know each and every medical professional who had a role in your care. But if the medical professional played a role in treating you, even if you never actually saw the doctor but they were looking at an x-ray or other diagnostic test, it is fair to assume the existence of a doctor-patient relationship.
You cannot file a claim for medical malpractice just because you were unhappy with the result.
To have a viable claim for medical malpractice, you must be able to show that the doctor’s care deviated from the acceptable standard of care. This means that you must be able to prove, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that the doctor treated you in a way that a reasonably competent doctor would not have. The doctor is not required to use the highest possible level of skill but must use the level of skill that a reasonably careful practitioner would.
Many times, patients are already sick or injured when they come to a doctor. There can be a question of whether a particular doctor’s actions were negligent and whether this negligence resulted in harm.
To succeed, the patient must show that it is more likely than not that the treatment by the defendant doctor was the cause of the patient’s injuries.
Finally, the patient or their family must be able to prove damages. These are the types of harm a patient can sue for, and include:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Past and future medical bills
- Lost wages and earning capacity
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Common Examples of Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice is now the third leading cause of death in the United States, behind only heart disease and cancer. While the elements of a medical malpractice claim remain the same across different medical specialties, the specific type of medical negligence can vary greatly.
Examples of medical malpractice include:
- Birth injuries
- Surgical injuries
- Unnecessary surgery
- Failure to diagnose
- Medical errors
- Loss of limb
- Poor follow-up care
- Anesthesia errors
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Spinal cord injuries
Regardless of the specific type of medical malpractice that occurred, the patient is likely to have suffered extreme physical pain, emotional distress, and financial loss. But proving a medical malpractice case can be difficult, and complex rules and regulations apply. Because medical malpractice claims are so complicated, they should not be attempted without the assistance of an experienced medical malpractice lawyer.
Special Requirements in Medical Malpractice Cases
In 2001, the Ohio legislature passed so-called tort reform measures in an effort to curtail what some people perceived to be a medical malpractice crisis. These tort reform measures make it more difficult for victims of medical negligence to bring lawsuits and limit the amount of compensation a victim of medical negligence can recover.
Statute of Limitations
In Ohio, you must bring a claim for medical malpractice within one year of the injury. If you do not file your claim for medical malpractice within one year, the court will dismiss your case, regardless of the facts.
However, there are exceptions to the one-year statute of limitations. For example, in some cases, the time does not start to run until you discovered or reasonably should have discovered the medical negligence.
Likewise, the statute of limitations does not begin to run until a person turns 18 years old.
And in certain circumstances, you can extend the statute of limitations by 180 days.
Expert Testimony Required
In Ohio, a medical malpractice complaint must be accompanied by an Affidavit of Merit. This is a sworn statement made by a physician who practices in the same specialty as the defendant and indicates that, in that doctor’s professional opinion, the defendant’s conduct fell below the applicable standard of care.
In addition, to succeed in your claim for medical negligence, you will need to provide expert testimony that establishes each element of a medical malpractice claim.
Caps on Damages
Finally, Ohio has placed a cap, or limit, on the amount of non-economic damages that a victim of medical malpractice can recover. These limits are $250,000 per person or three times the economic damages, whichever is greater.
Robenalt Law Fights for Victims of Medical Malpractice
Claims for medical malpractice are incredibly complex and should not be attempted without the assistance of a skilled professional.
If you believe you have a claim for medical malpractice, you should contact the experienced medical malpractice attorneys at Robenalt Law as quickly as possible.
We investigate and handle claims of medical negligence on a contingency fee. This means you don’t pay us a fee unless we recover money for you.
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 by negligent health care providers.