Ohio Medical Malpractice Laws & Statute of Limitations

Learn about the deadlines for filing medical malpractice lawsuits in Ohio, the caps on awards for some damages, and other state laws that could affect your case.

If you’re considering filing a medical malpractice claim in Ohio, it’s important to find the right lawyer to handle all of the complex legal issues involved in this type of case. But it’s also helpful for you to understand the basic process and when you need to take action. This article explains the most important Ohio laws and rules that could affect your case, including:

  • the deadlines for filing medical malpractice lawsuits
  • special procedural requirements for these lawsuits
  • legal limits on the amount of compensation you might receive, and
  • rules on apportioning liability in cases of shared fault for injuries.

Ohio’s Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

A statute of limitations is a law that sets a time limit on your right to file a lawsuit in court. In Ohio, the general statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases is one year after the alleged medical error (the “injury”). Ohio courts have held that the time period begins when you discover the injury (or reasonably should have discovered it) or when your relationship with the medical provider ends, whichever occurs later.

The one-year time period might be extended if, before the deadline, you send a formal notice to the prospective defendant (by certified mail, with a return receipt requested) that you’re considering a medical malpractice suit against that health care provider. Once the provider receives the notice, you have up to 180 days to file the lawsuit.

Ohio also sets an outside limit of four years for filing medical malpractice cases (known as a “statute of repose”), regardless of when you discovered the injury, sent the notice, or ended the doctor-patient relationship. Still, there are exceptions to that hard four-year deadline:

  • If you could not have reasonably discovered the injury within three years after it happened, but you do discover it before the end of the four-year period, you may file the lawsuit within one year after the actual discovery date.
  • If your injury is related to a foreign object that was left in your body during a medical procedure, you may file suit up to one year after you discover or reasonably should’ve discovered the foreign object, even if the four-year period has expired.
  • The medical malpractice statute of limitations is tolled—meaning that the time period for filing suit is paused—while the plaintiff (the injured patient) is still a child or “of unsound mind.”

(Ohio Rev. Code § 2305.113 (2021).)

"Affidavit of Merit" and Expert Requirements for Ohio Medical Malpractice Cases

When you file a medical malpractice lawsuit in Ohio, you must attach at least one “affidavit of merit” from an expert medical witness who is licensed to practice medicine in the same (or a similar) specialty as the defendant. The affidavit must include statements confirming that the expert has reviewed all of the relevant medical records, is familiar with the applicable standard of care, and believes that the defendant health care provider(s) breached the standard of care and caused injury to you.

If you can’t provide the affidavit at the same time that you file your lawsuit, you may file a motion requesting more time to file the affidavit. The judge will grant your request (usually for up to 90 days) if you have a good reason for the delay. (Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure, rule 10; Ohio Evidence Rules, rules 601, 702 (2021).)

Medical Malpractice Damage Caps in Ohio

If you win your medical malpractice case, you could receive compensation for two types of “damages," or losses that you’ve experienced as a result of the medical error:

  • economic damages, such as lost income, reduced ability to earn, or the cost of medical treatment needed because of the medical error; and
  • noneconomic damages like pain and suffering, loss of consortium, or emotional distress.

There’s no limit on the amount of compensation you can receive for your economic damages in Ohio medical malpractice cases, but state law does limit noneconomic damages: $250,000 or three times your economic damages (whichever is greater), up to a maximum of $350,000 for each plaintiff (or a total of $500,000 in cases involving multiple plaintiffs).

Ohio’s limit on noneconomic damages is higher in cases where the malpractice led to loss of a limb or organ system, permanent and substantial deformity, or permanent and severe injuries that prevent the plaintiffs from taking care of themselves independently. In these cases, the cap is $500,000 per plaintiff or $1 million total in cases with multiple plaintiffs. (Ohio Rev. Code § 2323.43 (2021).)

Comparative Negligence in Medical Malpractice Cases: When You’re Partly to Blame for Your Injuries

In medical malpractice and other personal injury cases, Ohio follows what’s known as a “comparative negligence” rule. This means that when more than one person was responsible for the injuries, a defendant is generally liable for the plaintiff’s damages only in proportion to that defendant’s share of the fault. This rule applies in cases where more than one defendant may be at fault, as well as cases where the plaintiffs were partly to blame for their own injuries.

There are two exceptions to this rule. Any defendant will be liable for 100% of the damages if that defendant:

(Ohio Rev. Code § 2307.22 (2021).)

Wrongful Death and Medical Malpractice in Ohio

In Ohio, malpractice cases that result in the death of a patient could lead to two different claims: a claim for medical malpractice, which seeks damages for the patient’s suffering and losses before death, and a wrongful death case, seeking damages for the losses suffered by the decedent’s survivors. Wrongful death claims must be filed within two years of the decedent’s passing (Ohio Rev. Code § 2125.02(D) (2021)).

Note that Ohio’s cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases does not apply to wrongful death cases.

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