Article at a Glance
- When a doctor does something wrong, Ohio law generally provides two types of remedies: a medical malpractice lawsuit or a disciplinary complaint.
- A medical malpractice lawsuit lets an injure patient recover monetary compensation for his or her injuries caused by a doctor’s negligence.
- A disciplinary complaint can lead to disciplinary action against a doctor by the State Medical Board, up to revocation of the doctor’s license to practice medicine. The Ohio Department of Health has similar authority over health care facilities.
When we visit medical professionals for help with a health issue, we expect they will provide the highest quality of care. That expectation comes from our knowledge that these professionals are highly educated and closely regulated by the state of Ohio. But when something goes wrong, it isn’t always obvious how to obtain an appropriate resolution.
In general, the law provides two different options in such cases: an Ohio medical malpractice lawsuit if the professional’s conduct fails to satisfy the appropriate legal standard of care and injures a patient or a disciplinary complaint filed with the State Medical Board (SMB) for conduct that violates the Medical Practices Act.
What’s the difference? Here’s an explanation.
Ohio Medical Malpractice Basics
During 2015, the most recent year for which statistics are available, insurance companies in Ohio reported that 2,800 medical professional liability claims (i.e., medical malpractice claims) were filed against Ohio health care professionals.
Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor or other health care professional fails to abide by the standards that the law requires of him or her, resulting in patient injury or death. Medical malpractice claims are filed in, and adjudicated by, an Ohio court. To prevail on a medical malpractice claim, the plaintiff must prove:
- A physician-patient relationship existed;
- What standard of care applies to the health care professional’s conduct;
- The professional failed to satisfy that standard; and
- That failure caused injury to the patient.
If the plaintiff successfully proves these four elements, then he or she can recover medical malpractice damages to compensate him or her for those injuries, including damages for lost wages, medical bills, pain and suffering, and others.
However, Ohio law imposes a deadline for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. In general, that deadline is one year after the malpractice occurred, although there are exceptions. If an injured patient fails to meet that deadline, and can’t qualify for one of those exceptions, then his or her lawsuit will be thrown out.
Ohio law also limits the amount of noneconomic damages (e.g., damages for pain and suffering) a person can recover in a medical malpractice lawsuit. These limits are generally up to $350,000 per plaintiff or $500,000 for each occurrence, although they can be higher in some circumstances.
Ohio Medical Board Discipline
In Ohio, the SMB licenses and regulates more than 86,000 medical professionals, including some 5,000 new licensees each year. During the fiscal year ended June 30, 2018, the SMB received 5,553 complaints and closed 5,783. 261 of those closed complaints resulted in disciplinary action.
Like medical malpractice liability, the SMB’s disciplinary process is also triggered by a failure to abide by certain standards, but the SMB is concerned with a wider range of standards than the courts are in a medical malpractice lawsuit. Examples of the types of complaints the SMB investigates include:
- Improper prescribing, dispensing, or administering of drugs;
- Failure to conform to minimal standards of care;
- Sexual misconduct within practice;
- Fraud, including deceptive advertising;
- Violating the code of ethics;
- Practicing medicine without a license or practicing outside the scope of a license.
The outcome of a complaint to the SMB is also different from the outcome of a medical malpractice lawsuit. If the SMB finds that a complaint is well-founded, it can take disciplinary action against the doctor or other professional.
Those actions can be substantial, ranging from fines of up to thousands of dollars to probation, temporary suspension, or permanent revocation of a medical professional’s license. But the injured patient doesn’t recover anything as a result of the disciplinary proceeding. It is intended to punish and correct the delinquent doctor, not compensate the person he or she injured.
Complaints can be filed with the SMB through its website.
What About Health Care Facilities?
Like doctors and other individual medical professionals, hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care facilities can be sued for medical malpractice. Patients can also file disciplinary complaints against such facilities, but those complaints are handled by other agencies, not the SMB.
If you have a complaint against a hospital, you should contact the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Provider and Consumer Services Unit (PCSU) in one of the following ways:
Mail: ODH, PCSU
246 N. High St.
Columbus, OH 43215
Fax: (614) 728-9169, numbering each page
Online: Complete the online Complaint Form (HEA 1685)
Complaints against other health care facilities (such as Ohio nursing homes) can also be made using ODH’s Complaint Hotline, 1-800-342-0553. The Hotline is staffed between 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM weekdays, or you can leave a voicemail at any time.
Know Your Options
Some conduct may give rise to both a complaint with the SMB and a medical malpractice lawsuit. Other conduct may give rise to a disciplinary complaint or a malpractice lawsuit, but not both. Like most areas of law, this one gets complicated.
If your doctor or other health care provider has injured you or broken the law, you need to know what options are available to hold him or her accountable and provide you with compensation and peace of mind. Medical malpractice and doctor discipline are two options that Ohio provides its residents to achieve those goals.
If you’ve been injured by the negligence of a doctor, hospital, nursing home, or other medical provider, contact the experienced medical negligence lawyers of Plevin & Gallucci today. We offer a free consultation to help you understand your options and choose the one that is best for you.