Unique Requirements of Medical Malpractice Cases
Medical negligence cases are typically more complex than other types of personal injury cases. The complexity is due to both the nature of the case—medical care and medicine are extremely intricate subjects—and the unique procedural requirements that are not found in other negligence cases, such as the need for a “certificate of merit” and at least one medical expert. Additionally, in many states, the amount of damages one can recover has been limited or “capped” by the legislature. Because of these complexities, it is important to hire an experienced medical malpractice attorney who has the resources and skills necessary to navigate these issues.
- The Certificate of Merit
In many states, including Kentucky and Ohio, plaintiffs pursuing a medical malpractice case must file a “certificate of merit” when they file a lawsuit. While each state’s requirements differ, certificates of merit usually must include a statement from a medical expert that the defendant did not act as a reasonable physician should have. In other words, it is a statement by a medical expert that the malpractice case has merit.
- The Need for a Medical Expert
Even in states that do not require a certificate of merit, a medical expert in usually needed in a medical negligence case. Since most people did not go to medical school, courts generally require a medical expert to explain to the jury what a reasonable physician would have done under the circumstances and that the defendant physician did not act reasonably. Courts also require medical experts to explain complex medical issues and evidence to the jury.
Not every doctor can be a medical expert in a medical malpractice case. Most courts will only allow a medical expert to testify about their own area of practice and expertise. For example, a pediatrician generally would not be allowed to testify as to how a reasonable emergency room physician should act. Why? Because a pediatrician is not likely to have expertise in emergency room care. For this reason, the medical expert should typically practice the same specialty or a substantially similar specialty of medicine as the medical professional being sued.
Generally, the plaintiff and defendant will each have at least one expert, and typically plaintiff’s expert and defendant’s expert will disagree. At the end of the trial, the jury decides which expert they believe. For this reason, it is very important in a medical malpractice case to hire an extremely qualified, competent, and trustworthy expert.
- Caps on Damages
While some states like Kentucky have no caps on damages, over the past few decades, lawmakers in many states have pushed for limits on the amount of damages that a plaintiff can receive in a medical malpractice case. For example, Ohio caps the amount an injured person can receive for pain, suffering, and other non-economic damages to a maximum of $500,000. Fortunately, Ohio does not limit such damages where the malpractice resulted in the patient’s death.
Due to the complexities and additional requirements of a medical malpractice case, it is important to consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney if you suspect medical negligence. If you or a loved one has been harmed due to a medical error, contact Burg Simpson’s medical malpractice lawyers in Cincinnati today. Our award-winning, compassionate attorneys would be happy to discuss your potential claim. Call 1-800-713-9340 or fill out our contact form for a FREE no-obligation consultation today.