Alarming Statistics Show Medical Malpractice is the Third Leading Cause of Death in America
You go into the hospital for a simple procedure, confident the doctor will perform their job as they ensure you that you’re in good hands. A few hours later as you wake up in the hospital, concerned eyes surround the bed. You feel pain in a different part of your body than what was scheduled to be operated on.
What happened? Wasn’t this supposed to be an easy, outpatient surgery? You find out the doctor operated on the WRONG part of your body… how could this happen?
2017 Medical Malpractice Statistics
Medical Malpractice Defined
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, medical malpractice is defined as, “Any act or omission by a physician during treatment of a patient that deviates from accepted norms of practice in the medical community and causes an injury to the patient.”
Medical Malpractice Payouts
In 2017, there were over $3.8 Billion in medical malpractice payouts given to victims and grieving family members in the U.S. Ohio alone accounted for nearly $78 Million- equaling a payout of around $6.69 per person in the state.
The most frequent medical mistake resulting in malpractice cases in 2017 involved misdiagnosis. Attorney Allen Tittle explains, “ One of the biggest issues for potential causes of action that we see in medical malpractice cases has to do with misdiagnosis. Doctors must rule out or treat conditions that are the most life-threatening or most life-altering first. And when they don’t, patients can either die, become paralyzed, or lose a limb.”
The second most frequent medical allegation involved surgical errors. Surgical errors can occur during preparation for surgery, during the operation itself, or even after the procedure is complete. Some of the most common surgical errors include cutting or puncturing organs not involved in the procedure, leaving behind surgical instruments in the patient’s body, and operating on the wrong part of the body.
Unfortunately, medical malpractice can often lead to severe injuries including brain damage, quadriplegia, and death. In 2017, death was the leading outcome for medical malpractice payouts in almost ⅓ of cases, followed by significant permanent injury.
How Long Do I Have to File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit in Ohio?
There are few events that are more devastating than receiving a cancer diagnosis. But one thing that can make things worse is when your doctor fails to properly diagnose your cancer. Any delay in treatment can lead to significant complications–and possibly put your life in jeopardy. For this reason, you can sue a doctor for medical malpractice if you can prove there was a misdiagnosis.
Court: Cervical Cancer Patient Waited Too Long to Notify Doctor of Malpractice Claim
There’s something you always need to keep in mind when it comes to medical malpractice involving a Cleveland-area physician: Ohio law imposes a one-year statute of limitations on patient lawsuits. More precisely, the law states that any action based on “medical, dental, optometric, or chiropractic” must be filed within one year of the time when “the cause of action accrued.” However, if you send the doctor written notice of your intentions to file a malpractice claim before the one-year period expires, the law extends the statute of limitations by another 180 days.
One question you might have is, When does a cause of action “accrue”? When dealing with cases involving misdiagnosis, this can be tricky to answer. Let’s look at a recent decision by the Ohio Fourth District of Appeals, Taylor v. Mizer, for some guidance.
This case involved a woman (the plaintiff in this case) who has cervical cancer. Her journey began in November 2014, when she visited her primary care physician to address complaints of abdominal pain and abnormal bleeding. The primary care doctor–who is not a party to this lawsuit–ordered a Pap smear. A few days later, the doctor informed the plaintiff she had a “cyst on her right ovary and that her Pap smear results were abnormal.” The doctor then referred the plaintiff to the defendant, an OB-GYN.
The following month, December 2014, the plaintiff saw the defendant, who prescribed oral contraceptives to address her abdominal pain. Although the plaintiff said they discussed her “possible” cervical cancer–a possibility raised by the abnormal Pap smear–the defendant said he thought the primary care doctor was addressing that issue. But the defendant also scheduled a follow-up appointment for the plaintiff in March 2015.
The plaintiff ended up canceling that appointment due to bad weather. She never rescheduled. Instead, in July 2015 she visited Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, which confirmed her cancer diagnosis. The plaintiff subsequently required a radical hysterectomy and extensive chemotherapy treatment.
In June 2016, the plaintiff sent written notice of the defendant of her malpractice claim. She did not file her lawsuit until December 2016.
Unfortunately, the courts ruled her claim was barred by the statute of limitations. As the Court of Appeals explained, based on these facts the one-year clock started to run the day she “terminated the physician-patient relationship” with the defendant, which was no later than the date of the canceled March 2015 appointment. This meant the plaintiff needed to send her written notice to the defendant by March 2016 in order to benefit from the 180-day extension to file her lawsuit. Since she did not send the notice until June 2016, she was out of luck.