Generally speaking, these statutes require that certain elements generally need to be proven to prove that the doctor or health care provider was negligent and responsible under the law:

  • Duty: The healthcare professional had a duty to provide a certain standard of care.
  • Breach of duty: The healthcare professional failed to meet the standard of care.
  • Causation: The breach of duty directly caused harm to the patient.
  • Damages: The patient suffered physical, emotional, or financial harm as a result.

Healthcare professionals are expected to adhere to what is commonly called the “standard of care.” Without a deviation or breach of the standard of care, a physician or healthcare professional is not negligent. While the state statutes require adherence to the “standard of care” they do not attempt, thankfully, to spell out exactly how a surgeon should perform a specific medical procedure. In the context of a legal case, the standard of care is typically established by reviewing expert witnesses through opinion testimony and may be supported by medical journals, articles and other authoritative sources. Legally, the standard of care is the type of medical care that would be provided by a reasonable, prudent doctor or health care provider under the circumstances as they exist at the time the care is rendered or needed. The important point to understand is that the standard of care is defined as what the reasonable, prudent doctor would or would not do – not the best or world class and not the worst.

With some limited exceptions, like most states, West Virginia and Ohio both require that the injured patient obtain and submit a “Certificate of Merit” or “Affidavit of Merit,” signed by a qualified expert, prior to filing a lawsuit against a health care provider. This document must detail the general standard of care, how it was breached and how the patient was damaged as a result. As part of our representation, the attorneys at the Hartley Law Group will seek to secure such documentation in support of your case, as and if appropriate.

Hospital or Institutional Liability

In addition to individual liability of a doctor, hospitals or healthcare institutions may also be held responsible for medical negligence errors. This can be based on theories such as vicarious liability (the hospital is responsible for the actions of its employees) or negligent supervision and training.

Statute of Limitations

There are strict time limits within which a legal action must be initiated (statute of limitations). Patients generally have a certain period to file a lawsuit, and exceeding this time limit could bar the legal action.

Expert Witnesses

In medical malpractice cases, expert witnesses are often called upon to provide their opinions on the standard of care, the alleged errors, and causation. The testimony of qualified experts can play a crucial role in determining liability.

Patients and/or their families who believe they have been harmed due to a medical error should consult with one of our attorneys to assess the specific circumstances of their case.