Cleveland Malpractice Lawyers Define the Differences Between Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury
Say you get hurt. You slip and fall at an acquaintance’s house and break your leg. You want to recover the costs associated with your care and your lost wages. Most people know that you would go see a personal injury lawyer to make a claim against the homeowner. Now, let’s say that while you were getting care for your leg, the doctor used the wrong surgical device and actually made your break worse. So much worse that you needed an additional surgery and had to stay in the hospital, where you contacted a Hospital Acquired Infection and ultimately ended up having to have your leg amputated. Well, if you want to make a claim against the surgeon, we’re talking about needing a different kind of lawyer, one who focuses on medical mistakes, a medical negligence or “medical malpractice” attorney.
Most people understand that if a person suffers a physical or emotional injury due to the carelessness of someone else, the injury falls under so-called “Personal Injury Law.” But when that injury is the direct result of the mistake of a medical professional, then you need a more specialized type of attorney, a medical malpractice attorney. All malpractice attorneys are personal injury attorneys because medical malpractice is a type of personal injury, but not all personal injury attorneys are malpractice attorneys. As a middle school math teacher might show it in a Venn diagram:
Medical malpractice is a type of personal injury
Both personal injury and medical malpractice law serve to correct a civil wrong when an individual is injured through no fault of his own. However, medical malpractice is a subset of personal injury. There are many areas of similarity, but medical malpractice cases are much more complex than routine car accident cases or slip and fall cases. At The Eisen Law Firm, our attorneys decided long ago to concentrate solely on medical malpractice claims. We are very careful in the selection of the cases that we take on, so that we can ensure our clients receive the dedicated attention required for the complexities of a medical negligence claim.
What medical malpractice and personal injury have in common
Because medical malpractice is a type of personal injury, the two areas are very closely related. The following broadly outlines their surface similarities:
- Injured parties – Both practice areas are based upon seeking justice through the civil court system when someone has been injured due the actions or inactions of another party.
- Civil tort law – Personal injury and medical malpractice both fall under civil law and torts.
- Monetary compensation – The method of justice sought is monetary compensation for economic and non-economic damages the injured party has suffered.
- Non–economic damages – Ohio has a “cap” on non-economic damages that may be awarded in personal injury cases. Non-economic damages are meant to compensate injured people for pain and suffering they must endure due to someone else’s carelessness. In Ohio, the cap on non-economic damages is $250K, or three times the economic damage, maxing out at $350K for one plaintiff, or $500K per occurrence for multiple plaintiffs. In cases of “catastrophic injuries,” there is no cap for most personal injury victims, but there is for victims of medical negligence. That cap is $500k per person and $1 million if there are multiple plaintiffs.
Important distinctions between medical malpractice and personal injury
The differences between general personal injury and medical malpractice are obvious when you have been through a medical negligence case. These claims are extremely difficult, requiring extensive time, research and documentation. They also typically cost far more to litigate and to take to trial. The following are other distinctions between these areas of practice:
- Complexity – Personal injury claims are much wider in scope but are usually not very complicated. Medical malpractice claims deal exclusively with injuries related to medical and hospital care, and they often turn on the nuances of difficult medical issues.
- Issues in Dispute – In many personal injury claims, negligence is admitted. The driver who crashed the stop sign and was cited by the police typically admits fault. In medical negligence cases, doctors and hospitals typically fight tooth and nail to deny, deny, and deny fault, even in cases where their conduct seems indefensible.
- Affidavit of Merit – A person bringing a medical negligence case must obtain an affidavit (a sworn statement) from a physician saying that the defendant was negligent and caused injury before he can file a lawsuit. No other personal injury cases have this pre-suit requirement.
- Expert Witnesses – Medical negligence cases typically require the hiring of multiple expert witnesses, whose fees for reviewing records and providing objective opinion testimony can be very high. This makes medical negligence cases much more expensive (and risky) to pursue.
- Statute of limitations – In most states, the statute of limitations is different for bodily personal injury claims than for medical malpractice suits. In Ohio, the time limit to file an Ohio personal injury suit for bodily injury typically is two years, beginning from the date of injury. The time limit to file suit for medical negligence, however, is shorter. An injured patient has one year to file suit for medical negligence. (However, determining when the one-year clock starts “ticking” for a medical malpractice suit isn’t clear cut, since various “exceptions” exist to “toll” or hold the starting of the clock.) And if the medical negligence causes death, a two-year time limit to seek redress for the wrongful death may apply. (The preceding is a simple summary of the time limits. Please check with an attorney to see exactly what time limit applies to your situation.)
- Success rates – In line with the complexity of a medical malpractice suit, they are far more difficult to prove. And, statistics show a much higher plaintiff success rate for general personal injury cases than for medical malpractice suits. This underscores the need to make sure that you retain an attorney with extensive experience and intricate knowledge of medical malpractice claims, which comes only from an exclusive focus on its practice.
Depend on trusted Cleveland medical malpractice lawyers to deliver the extensive knowledge and skills that set us apart as a preeminent medical malpractice firm
Our dedication to the sole practice of this subset of personal injury is what makes us unique in medical malpractice law in Ohio. Don’t trust your serious malpractice case to just any firm. Call 216-687-0900 or contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation and discover how we can help your serious medical malpractice claim. The Eisen Law Firm serves Cleveland, Toledo, Akron, Lorain, Columbus, and the rest of Ohio.