What is the Timeline of a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?
Medical malpractice can change a person’s life forever. When you go to a doctor or medical professional, you expect high-quality care that won’t hurt you. While treatment often comes with medical risks, your doctor should take every reasonable step to manage those risks and give you the best treatment. If your doctor or other medical professional acts negligently, you may be entitled to compensation for any injuries that have resulted from that negligence. There are many ways that medical malpractice can occur, and an experienced legal team can help you understand your legal rights if you have been hurt in a medical setting.
Understanding Medical Malpractice
Before you can do anything else, you have to understand what medical malpractice is and what it isn’t. Medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional has acted negligently or recklessly. Medical negligence happens when a healthcare professional doesn’t give standard care to a patient, and they cause injury of some kind. Medical professionals are required to act in certain ways that mitigate any pain or suffering patients may feel. When a provider doesn’t give care that reflects treatment under similar circumstances or acts recklessly, they may have committed medical malpractice.
Some examples of medical malpractice include:
- Not diagnosing or misdiagnosing a condition
- Ignoring or misinterpreting lab results
- Surgical mistakes
- Not receiving appropriate aftercare or follow-up
- Misusing or not taking a proper patient history
- Discharging a patient prematurely
- Operating on a person unnecessarily
- Not ordering the appropriate testing
- Ignoring symptoms
- Not warning patients about potential risks
- A doctor or nurse failed to supervise other professionals appropriately
To prove medical malpractice, you must show a medical professional has breached their standard of care. Each profession has a duty to treat their patients to the best of their ability and to take every reasonable measure to ensure the safety of their patients. But proving that a professional has not reached the standard of care is not enough. You must also show that the care has acted negligently and that negligence has caused significant damages. These damages can include financial loss, serious injury, disability, and pain and suffering.
What is Not Malpractice
Several things are not considered medical malpractice. Not every unfortunate medical outcome can be classified as medical malpractice. Some procedures are inherently risky, which means that if they go wrong, the doctor or medical care cannot be held responsible unless they were somehow negligent and breached their duty of care.
Additionally, if you are not the patient of a doctor, you cannot file a malpractice claim. If a medical professional has not given you care and is not on the record for being responsible for your care, they are not legally responsible for your health outcomes. However, from the point that a practitioner starts to give you medical care, they must uphold their standard of care.
Doctors are not required to do everything right. The law does not require them to never make mistakes or have perfect judgment. Sometimes, the right course of action can only be seen in hindsight, and doctors can only act based on the limited information they have. Additionally, medical professionals don’t always have all the medical skills. For example, a general practitioner may not see certain cardiac symptoms in the same way a cardiologist would. The doctor must take every reasonable step to care for their patient, but that doesn’t guarantee ideal outcomes.
It is not malpractice if a condition cannot be treated. Unfortunately, some conditions are not treatable, and if a doctor has done all that they can to help their patient, they are not to blame if a condition gets worse and causes a patient suffering. Likewise, it’s also not necessarily malpractice if a condition gets worse. A doctor can act appropriately, and a medical condition can still fail to improve or even get worse.
Whether a case is malpractice or not all comes down to whether the doctor has breached their standard of care and has not adequately provided for the needs of their patients based on reasonable expectations.
Becoming Aware of Your Injury
The first thing that happens in a medical malpractice case is becoming aware of your injuries. Sometimes, this process will be straightforward. For example, if a surgeon operates on the wrong part of your body, it’s pretty clear when the error was made and what the error was. However, if you’re prescribed the wrong medicine, it can take a while before you start to notice the effects, and you might not notice them until you start to have other health conditions. Once the injury is apparent, the clock starts ticking to file your claim.
Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations
Before your case can commence, you have to make sure that your case is still valid. Ohio law gives you one year to file a medical malpractice case from the day you discern your injury. You can give notice to the medical professional that has committed malpractice that you intend to file a claim, and this notice can extend your filing period by six months (180 days).
If you only notice your injuries later, you have up to four years to file your lawsuit, but you still must be sure to file within the one year from the discovery of your injury. There are a few notable exceptions to this rule. People who perceive their injury more than three years after it happened can get an entire year to file their claim. Additionally, when a foreign object has been left in a person, they are not limited by the four-year timeframe.
Minors are also excluded from the basic rule. The timeframe for a malpractice lawsuit begins until a minor becomes eighteen. This exception can also extend to people with certain mental disabilities.
Talk to Your Doctor
You’ll want to contact your doctor about what has happened. The doctor may help fix the situation without the hassle or investment of a lawsuit. It can also force the medical board to pressure a doctor into a resolution. Before accepting any solutions, you should seek legal advice.
Seeking Legal Help
Ohio malpractice lawyers can help you understand your legal rights, and they make sure that you get the most benefits from your case. Lawyers understand how hard it is to deal with medical malpractice injuries, and we know what to look for in these cases to highlight your damages and show that a certain medical professional is responsible for those damages. Medical malpractice is often complicated and requires a lot of savvy communication, which is why having a qualified legal team is so valuable.
How Does a Medical Malpractice Case Begin
Lawyers begin by going over the evidence. This includes looking at medical records and the history of the doctor or other care who has committed malpractice. Columbus medical malpractice attorney will review medical standards to determine if the doctor did not meet their standard of care. Don’t worry; your lawyer cannot access this information without your permission. Your medical rights are always yours to keep; however, it is important you sign a release form so that your legal team can have the information they need to build your case. Without access to your medical information, your attorney can’t appropriately review your case.
Certificate of Merit
In Ohio, medical malpractice cases require the use of a certificate of merit. This certificate is a document from a doctor verifying that you are hurt and that your injuries were caused because the doctor in your case did not meet the standard of care. This certificate shows that your case is valid to the court.
Filing Your Claim
Because each malpractice case is unique, your exact claim will depend on the nature of your case and injuries, but your claim must include all components of your damages. You don’t have to create this claim yourself. Based on the evidence, your attorney creates this claim for you and makes sure it is appropriately filed.
Your First Hearing
Once your file is claimed, you will have a hearing in front of Ohio’s Medical Malpractice tribunal. This tribunal will include a judge, a litigator, and a doctor with expertise relevant to your case. Your attorney will help you give an Offer of Proof to this tribunal, which is a document that includes the evidence for your claim and your Certificate of Merit. The tribunal decides if your case goes on. If the tribunal does not decide in your favor, you can post a bond and move forward with your case or drop your case altogether. The bond is $6,000, and you get it back if you win your case, but you don’t get it returned if you lose.
If your case goes forward, yours start the process of discovery. During this phase, your attorney and the defense attorneys will get information from one another. This stage includes depictions with relevant parties, which is an interview given under oath. This process can be the most lengthy part of a malpractice lawsuit and can take months or even years. At the end of this process, the case will be ready for trial.
Trial or Settlement
The resolution of your case will either be decided in a trial, or it will be determined via settlement. During the trial, the case will be presented to a judge or jury, who will decide if you get compensation and how much. Trials can take multiple weeks. The amount you get will include both economic damages (financial costs) and non-economic damages (pain and suffering). Most cases conclude through settlements because settlements are often more efficient for all parties involved and saves a lot of time. You can reach settlements during discovery. Your lawyer will make sure you get the best possible settlement.
Why You Need a Lawyer
A medical malpractice lawyer in Columbus, Ohio, will give you the best chance of getting the high-quality legal results you want. Medical malpractice can be hard to prove, and even with all this knowledge, you may still feel a little lost. An attorney can help you by answering any questions you may have and creating a legal strategy based on your induvial case.