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Understanding Ohio’s medical malpractice laws

Every state in the country has very distinct laws surrounding the filing of claims for medical errors. Many Ohio citizens are unaware of the specific laws and guidelines in the state which can directly impact their ability to file a valid claim or not. Understanding the basics of such laws is important as part of an effort to maintain overall safety and protect the right for compensation in the event of a medical error.

A recent study by Patient Safety America reports that the number of deaths resulting from errors in a hospital is far greater than previously thought. Instead of an average of 98,000 deaths per year, the new information suggests that between 210,000 and 440,000 people die from some action taken (or not) while in a hospital. Such numbers illustrate the need for patients to be vigilant about their rights.

Statute of limitations

A statute of limitations is essentially the amount of time that a person has in order to file a claim. After the statute time has expired, unless some exception applies, a lawsuit is no longer able to be pursued.

Medical malpractice claims in Ohio must be filed within one year from either the date that the error or injury was discovered or within one year from the date that the relationship between the doctor and patient was discontinued. The latter of these two dates is used as the starting point for the one-year statute. No matter which circumstance leads the statute, a lawsuit must be filed within a maximum of four years.

There are two significant exceptions to the standard one-year statute in Ohio. The first is for cases where a foreign object is left in a patient’s body and the second is for injuries that are not discovered until after three years of the date of occurrence. In these situations, the one-year statute begins from the date of discovery even if that takes the ultimate time beyond the four-year maximum.

Damage award limits

Many states have caps on the amount of money that can be awarded to plaintiffs in medical malpractice suits and Ohio is no exception. The award limits in Ohio are as follows:

  • Non-economic damages for one plaintiff are capped at $250,000 or three times the amount of economic damages awarded up to a maximum of $350,000, whichever is greater.
  • In cases with multiple plaintiffs, non-economic damages are capped at $500,000.
  • For an injury classified as catastrophic, the punitive damages are capped at $500,000 for one plaintiff and $1 million for multiple plaintiffs.
  • Examples of a catastrophic injury include permanent deformity, loss of a limb or an organ system or a condition that prevents a person from providing self-care.

The damage awards do not apply to cases of wrongful death. Additionally, in the case of a death, plaintiffs can file both medical malpractice and wrongful death claims.

Patients’ rights

People who may have been affected by a medical error should take action, starting with a legal consultation. Obtaining professional advice on the validity of a claim and understanding the process will give victims the best chance for appropriate compensation.

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