Your daughter was admitted to a local Cleveland clinic for what was supposed to be a very simple procedure. Unfortunately, however, during her stay she was accidentally given the wrong medication and developed a whole host of new problems. She has had to stay in the hospital for an extended period of time due to this error and is now on an entire new treatment regimen. Folks have asked whether you are planning to bring a medical malpractice action. Frankly, you're not even sure exactly what that means. Here's some basic, general information about medical malpractice cases in Cleveland.
What Is a Medical Malpractice Case?
Typically, a medical malpractice action is a claim that a medical professional acted negligently. Basically, that means that a health care provider or institution acted without sufficient care and their actions (or inactions) caused or contributed to injury to the patient.
Some common examples of malpractice in the health field include misdiagnosis, delayed treatment, unnecessary procedures, surgical errors, birth injuries, and prescription medication errors.
A medical malpractice action is a civil (as opposed to criminal) matter and in Cleveland, would likely be brought at the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court.
How Long Do You Have To Bring a Medical Malpractice Action?
In any type of suit, there are deadlines within which you must begin your case or be barred (prohibited) forever from doing so. These are called statutes of limitations and they vary by state and type of case.
In Cleveland and the rest of Ohio, you generally have one year to bring a medical malpractice action. However, if there was no way you could have discovered the injury until after that period, you do have some additional time under the law (up to about 4 years).
Still, it is important to pay very close attention to the time limits and to pursue a claim sooner, rather than later, to ensure that a case is not restricted in any way.
Who Can Be Sued In a Medical Malpractice Action?
In a medical malpractice action, the injured patient is typically the "plaintiff." Depending on the circumstances, there are several individuals or entities that may be named as the "defendants." Aside from the doctor, you may also have an action against the hospital, either directly or through the concept of vicarious liability.
A direct action against the hospital would be based on the hospital's own negligence. Examples of this would be things like improper hiring of staff, failure to keep sufficient staff on hand, failure to maintain accurate medical records, or improper refusal to treat or admit certain individuals.
A vicarious liability action against the hospital would be based not on the allegation that the hospital itself behaved negligently, but that, as the employer, it is responsible for the actions of its employees under certain circumstances. FindLaw has compiled some more information about the parties who may be sued generally in a medical malpractice case.
How Do You Prove Your Medical Malpractice Case?
Accidents happen all the time, and although everybody is generally expected to act reasonably to avoid harming others, the law expects a bit more from doctors.
Doctors are measured against the standards of other doctors and in most cases, in order to win a medical malpractice case, a party must show that the doctor acted carelessly and that those actions fell below the "generally accepted standard of medical care."
A doctor doesn't owe a duty of care and treatment to every random person he encounters, but once the doctor enters into a doctor-patient relationship with someone, he does owe them a duty to exercise the same degree of skill, care and diligence as a reasonably competent doctor under the circumstances.
To establish that your doctor failed in this regard, you will generally need to present expert testimony by another doctor in the same or similar field who can describe standard practices and point to the ways in which your doctor failed to meet these.
What Can You Recover?
Typically, in a medical malpractice action you will seek monetary compensation ("damages") for both tangible economic and intangible non-economic losses. Economic recovery can include medical expenses, lost wages and other out of pocket costs, whereas non-economic recovery includes things like pain and suffering and emotional distress.
In Cleveland and the rest of the state there is no limit on economic damages, but there is a cap on non-economic damages. Specifically, you are essentially limited to $250,000 (although it can go as high as $350,000 depending on the amount of your economic damages). Note, however, that if you suffer severe damage, such as permanent and substantial deformity, your non-economic recovery is extended to a maximum of $500,000.
Need a Lawyer?
A medical malpractice action can be a very complicated endeavor with medical terminology, expert witnesses, and legal strategy to contend with all while recuperating from your injury. It is strongly advised that you at least consult with a Cleveland attorney who specializes in this area. For sample forms, document checklists and more, check out FindLaw's section on Medical Malpractice Legal Help.
Contact a qualified attorney.