People often call our office wanting to know if their case meets the elements of a medical malpractice lawsuit. This can be a tricky question, but one which our attorneys at Lowe Eklund Wakefield take the time to look into in earnest with each call.
There are several key components that are required for a law firm or attorney to accept a medical malpractice case. These include the following:
Negligence: Any medical malpractice case that our firm may take, must begin with the failure of a doctor to perform his or her medical duties according to the standard of care. In other words, if your doctor negligently treated you, it must be proven that their conduct deviated from the standard of care. The breach of the standard of care must be demonstrated through expert testimony from a qualified medical professional. If a qualified expert offers the opinion that the doctor’s treatment of you was negligent, you may have a viable medical malpractice case.
Cause: The treatment or care your doctor provided must not only have been below the standard of care, but must also have been the direct cause of the harm or injury you suffered. This is an essential component to any medical malpractice case and can be difficult to prove, especially if the person had a serious illness before seeking treatment. It is almost always argued by the defense in a medical negligence case that the patient would have died despite any medical errors. A medical expert must offer the opinion that the negligent provider’s conduct was a cause of death, injury or harm, rather than the natural course of the disease or injury for which a patient sought treatment.
Harm/Damages: Simply put, if there are no significant damages, the case is unlikely to move forward. The cost of pursuing a medical malpractice case is so burdensome on victims of medical errors, that their damages must justify the cost of their case. Patients who do not suffer catastrophic and permanent injuries from medical errors are not typically good candidates for a malpractice lawsuit. This can sometimes be difficult to accept; however, under the status of Ohio law today, it is a deciding factor your attorney must consider. Damages in a medical malpractice case may include:
- Ongoing physical pain outside the scope of normal recovery for a procedure requiring ongoing treatment
- Mental anguish or distress due to the negligent care
- Additional medical bills and procedures
- Loss of work or earning capacity
- Permanent loss of use of limbs or organ systems
Statute Of Limitations: One of the first questions an attorney should ask is, “When did the medical error occur?” and “When did you first find out a medical error had likely occurred?” This is because Ohio has a statute of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits that is only one year. Determining when the one-year deadline begins to run is something an attorney should analyze with you based on the facts of your case. To be sure, you should act quickly under such a short deadline.
Once you have spoken to an attorney and he or she has determined that your case can move forward, your case will enter into a pre-suit investigation. Your attorney will gather pertinent medical records and contact necessary experts to analyze your case. If your case is supported by medical experts, the case can be prepared for filing. After the filing of a lawsuit, intense discovery takes place where both sides exchange information, and both sides present the opinions of experts. The opposing experts will often disagree as to the applicable standard of care, cause, and damages too. The time it takes to resolve a medical malpractice case can vary, but they are highly contentious cases that typical take between two and four years to litigate.
For more information about medical malpractice, pleases visit our website. If you believe you have a case, please contact an attorney at Lowe Eklund Wakefield today to get a free legal consultation. We are available online or by phone at 216-781-2600.