More than 3,000 claims for medical professional liability were closed in the state of Ohio in 2014, the most recent year for which data is available. These claims alleged that a doctor, hospital, or other medical professional or institution failed to provide adequate care for a patient. Although fewer than 24% of these claims were successful, payments on the claims totaled more than $215 million.
In the practice of law, these are known as medical malpractice claims. This post summarizes some of the important aspects of medical malpractice law in Ohio, including the definition of malpractice and what damages you may be able to recover if you become injured.
What is medical malpractice?
In Ohio, medical malpractice occurs when a doctor, hospital, or other medical professional or institution injures a patient by failing to meet the applicable standard of care. A plaintiff in a medical malpractice lawsuit must prove each of the following elements:
- The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty: This element is typically satisfied by showing that a physician-patient relationship existed;
- There is a standard of care that applies to the defendant’s conduct: This refers to those things that a medical professional or institution of ordinary skill, care, and diligence would (or would not) have done under similar circumstances;
- The defendant breached that standard: A medical professional or institution breaches the standard of care by doing (or failing to do) something that the professional or institution of ordinary skill, care, and diligence would not (or would) have done under similar circumstances;
- The defendant’s breach caused the plaintiff’s injury.
A medical malpractice claim can be asserted for mistakes such as misdiagnosis, prescribing the wrong medication, and mistakes during surgery, such as problems with anesthetics or leaving medical tools inside the patient.
What can I recover in a medical malpractice case?
Unfortunately, the law can’t mend the injuries caused by medical malpractice. Instead, courts seek to make it right by awarding money in the form of damages.
Damages for Medical Malpractice
In medical malpractice lawsuits in Ohio, prevailing plaintiffs can always recover compensatory damages. Compensatory damages are intended to compensate the plaintiff for the injury. Occasionally, a plaintiff may also be entitled to punitive damages. These are intended to punish a defendant whose conduct was particularly egregious.
Compensatory damages can be further broken down into economic damages and noneconomic damages. This distinction is important because the law limits the amount of noneconomic damages that a plaintiff can recover, as discussed in more detail below.
Economic damages are meant to compensate a plaintiff for amounts he or she actually expended or lost because of the injury. Economic damages include things like:
- Lost wages;
- Medical bills;
- Amounts paid for prescription drugs; and
- Amounts paid for medical equipment.
Noneconomic damages are meant to compensate a plaintiff for non-pecuniary injuries — e.g., injuries that the plaintiff doesn’t pay or lose money for. They include things such as:
- Pain and suffering;
- Loss of consortium;
- Disfigurement; and
- Mental anguish.
Limits on Noneconomic Damages
As you can see from the list above, noneconomic damages are harder to quantify than economic damages. To compensate a plaintiff for medical bills, one need only look at the amount charged. But nobody sends a bill for pain and suffering or mental anguish. The proper compensation for such noneconomic damages must be proven indirectly.
Concerned that jury awards for noneconomic damages could get out of hand, the Ohio General Assembly enacted O.R.C. § 2323.43. That section limits noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases as follows:
- Normally, noneconomic damages are limited to the greater of $250,000 or three times the amount of economic damages, to a maximum of $350,000 for each plaintiff or $500,000 for each occurrence;
- If a plaintiff suffered permanent and substantial physical deformity, loss of use of a limb, loss of a bodily organ system, or a permanent physical functional injury that prevents the plaintiff from being able to independently care for themselves \and perform life-sustaining activities, then the above limits on noneconomic damages are raised to $500,000 for each plaintiff and $1 million for each occurrence.
Importantly, under the Ohio Constitution’s Bill of Rights, the General Assembly cannot limit the amount of damages in a wrongful death case. Consequently, when medical malpractice is raised in a wrongful death lawsuit, the above limits do not apply.
What to Do if You’ve Been Injured
If you think you have been injured because a doctor or hospital failed to provide proper care to you, your first step should be to raise the issue with the doctor or hospital. Doing so may enable you to solve the problem without the need for a lawsuit.
However, if the doctor or hospital is unwilling or unable to help, or you and your loved one are in a nursing home and have experienced medical negligence or malpractice, your next step should be to contact one of the experienced Ohio medical malpractice attorneys of Plevin & Gallucci. We can help you understand what you are entitled to under the law and help you obtain it. Fill out our free-consultation online form today or give us a call at 1-855-4-PLEVIN.