Tort Reform and Damage Caps in Ohio Medical Malpractice Cases

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Robenalt Law Seeks Justice for People Who Are Victims of Medical Negligence

Medical malpractice lawsuits are complex, expensive, time consuming, emotionally demanding, and high-risk. The legal and medical issues at play are complicated, and an injured person and their family need a medical malpractice lawyer who understands these issues, can advise them on how to navigate this complex legal landscape, and can act as a zealous advocate on their behalf.

To further complicate matters, starting in 2001 the Ohio legislature passed so-called tort reform measures in an effort to curtail what some perceived as a medical malpractice crisis that allegedly was driving qualified doctors out of Ohio.

Ohio’s tort reform statutes include specific requirements that apply to medical malpractice cases. These obstacles make medical malpractice cases more expensive and difficult to file, and limit the amount of compensation an injured person and their family can recover.

Specifically, Ohio’s tort reform statutes include a shorter window in which to file a claim for medical malpractice, require that a victim of medical malpractice include an Affidavit of Merit with their Complaint, and limit the amount of damages an injured person can receive in a jury verdict.

One-Year Statute of Limitations for Ohio Medical Malpractice Cases

Ohio applies a short one-year statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases. This means that if a victim of medical malpractice must a lawsuit within one year from the date the medical error occurred; otherwise they will not be able to pursue their claim. There are a few exceptions. For example, if the injured person did not immediately know of the medical error, the one-year period does not start until the injured person first learns of the injury.

But beware - if you think you might have been the victim of medical malpractice you should consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible to determine whether the one-year statute of limitations applies to your case.

Ohio’s Affidavit of Merit Requirement in Medical Malpractice Cases

in 2005 Ohio passed a law that requires plaintiffs in a medical malpractice lawsuit to include an Affidavit of Merit as a part of any lawsuit for medical malpractice. The affidavit of merit must be made by an expert witness who states that the claim is legitimate.

The Affidavit of Merit is a sworn statement, made under oath by a qualified medical professional, which states that the case is not frivolous. The doctor or other medical professional must state that he or she:

  • Has reviewed all of the records reasonable available
  • Is familiar with the standard of care that applies to the plaintiff’s care and treatment
  • Believes that the defendant did not meet the standard of care, and that
  • The plaintiff was injured as a result

Ohio Tort Reform Placed Damage Caps on the Amount an Injured Person Can Receive

In 2002, Ohio passed legislation that limits the amount of compensation that people and their families can recover in medical malpractice cases. Specifically, S.B. 281 put a “damage cap” on the amount that medical malpractice victims and their families can recover for non-economic damages. Ohio’s tort reform laws do not limit the amount an injured person can recover for economic loss, which includes medical bills.

Non-economic damages refer to non-monetary losses that are a result of an injury and include compensation for pain and suffering, permanent disfigurement, disability, and loss of consortium. It is important to note that this cap on damages DOES NOT APPLY TO CLAIMS FOR ECONOMIC LOSS FOR PAST MEDICAL BILLS, AND FUTURE MEDICAL COSTS AND FUTURE LOSS OF WAGES.

Ohio’s damage caps are set at $250,000 per plaintiff or 3 times the economic damages, whichever is higher, with a maximum of $350,000 per plaintiff and $500,000 per occurrence.

If a plaintiff’s injuries are found to be “catastrophic” the limit is set at $500,000 per individual and $1 million per occurrence. Under Ohio law, catastrophic injuries are those that involve:

  • Permanent and substantial physical deformity
  • Loss of use of a limb
  • Loss of a bodily organ system
  • Permanent physical injury that prevents self-care

These limits also do not apply to cases for wrongful death.

Tort reform was passed in response to rising health care costs that proponents claimed were driven by large jury verdicts and frivolous medical malpractice claims. People argued that doctors were being forced to practice defensive medicine, ordering tests that were not truly necessary to protect themselves in the event that they were later sued for medical malpractice. Another driver of medical malpractice malpractice reform was the claim by physicians that insurance companies were increasing medical malpractice insurance premiums for doctors and hospitals in response to these high jury verdicts and frivolous claims. They claimed that high insurance premiums were forcing doctors to leave the state.

Regardless, the biggest problem with medical malpractice damage caps is that it places the burden on the wrong party. Instead of protecting people who were victims of medical malpractice, tort reform places additional obstacles to justice in the path of injured people and their families, rather than on the doctor or hospital that committed the wrong.  At Robenalt Law, we aggressively fight for our clients rights, especially in cases where there is a future loss of income or a need for future medical treatment. We retain experts to calculate these future damages to ensure our clients get the most favorable recovery as possible under the law.

Think You Were a Victim of Medical Malpractice? Robenalt Law Can Help

If you believe that you or someone you care was a victim of medical malpractice, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Even if you don’t ultimately have a case, we would rather that you make the call and get an answer from a qualified medical malpractice lawyer instead of wondering “what if….” Your initial meeting is at no charge to you, and we handle most medical malpractice cases on a contingency fee. You won’t pay us unless we recover money for you.

Contact an experienced medical malpractice lawyer at Robenalt Law today to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case. Call us at 216-223-7573, complete our online form, or email trobenalt@robenaltlaw.com

Tom Robenalt started his litigation career representing doctors and hospitals at a large firm in Cleveland. For the past 20 years, he has used that experience to help victims and the families of those injured by negligent health care providers.

Categories: Medical Malpractice

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