Medical malpractice litigation in Ohio is similar in some respects to other types of tort litigation and vastly different in others. At the outset, a med mal case must be filed with an affidavit of merit, which is not required in other tort cases. The affidavit must be signed by a physician who has reviewed available records and is knowledgeable about the area of practice. An extension of time to file the affidavit can be obtained in certain situations.
Once in suit, the trial court will hold a case management conference to set a schedule for the litigation. In most Ohio counties, the trial date will be scheduled within 1 to 1.5 years of filing the lawsuit. During that time, the parties will exchange information, conduct depositions of witnesses, exchange expert reports (or simply identify experts, in some counties) and conduct depositions of expert witnesses. It is not uncommon for the first trial date to be continued for several months if the case cannot be settled.
Settlement discussions typically take place close to the trial date. In most instances, settlement talks occur with the assistance of a mediator, an independent lawyer who is trained to facilitate settlement discussions. About 80% of cases that go to mediation settle.
One distinction between simple negligence cases, like car accidents, and medical negligence litigation is the expense. Expenses in such cases usually surpass $50,000 per case and often exceed $100,000 per case. We have handled some cases where the expenses exceeded $200,000. So, in selecting a law firm to represent you in a medical malpractice case, you not only need lawyers who are experienced and knowledgeable about both medicine and the law, but also who have the resources to fund a case.
In deciding which cases to pursue, we are very selective because medical negligence cases require such a huge commitment of time, resources and emotion. Clients, too, must be selective in deciding whether to pursue a claim. In the courtroom, justice is meted out by a verdict that requires a physician’s insurer to compensate a victim of poor care. The physician is not sent to jail, his/her license is not taken away, he/she is not fired, and the physician need not personally pay any fine.