Basic Requirements for a Medical Malpractice Claim
Experienced Attorney Serving Victims of Medical Malpractice In Hudson County and the Union City Area
Successfully establishing that a doctor or other medical care provider harmed a patient through medical malpractice is a very complex, lengthy, and difficult process. In the majority of cases, the defendant’s doctors, hospital, and insurance companies put up a fierce legal fight. Therefore, it is critical to your potential medical malpractice case to hire a legal team that is committed, willing, and ready to go to battle on your behalf. At the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Hasson, P.C., we fight for our clients for as long as it takes. Below are some of the most common questions that clients ask us about medical malpractice claims.
I’ve heard that medical malpractice claims are hard to prove. Should I bother bringing one?
Medical malpractice claims are harder to pursue than “regular” personal injury claims because it is much more difficult to prove that the doctor was negligent, and also that the negligence directly caused injuries. In almost every case, expert medical testimony is required to establish liability. However, an experienced, reputable medical malpractice attorney can evaluate your situation and decide if you have a strong case.
Each state sets its own specific definition for what constitutes medical malpractice, as well as the procedures that must be followed by the parties. In some states, medical malpractice tribunals evaluate claims to determine if they may proceed to trial. Some states, such as New Jersey, require that the legal team of the injured patient (the plaintiff) files an Affidavit of Merit, which will be discussed below.
Quality legal representation is critical in bringing a successful medical malpractice case.
What are the basics of medical malpractice?
To pursue a successful medical malpractice claim in New Jersey, the plaintiff must demonstrate that a healthcare professional (or facility) violated the standard of care, and that said violation directly caused harm to the patient. More specifically, a successful plaintiff will demonstrate the following:
- That a doctor-patient relationship existed;
- That the doctor’s care of the plaintiff (including treatment or failure to render treatment) fell below the medically accepted standard of care for a patient in a similar situation (referred to as medical negligence);
- That the doctor’s medical negligence directly caused the plaintiff’s harm; and
- The plaintiff’s harm is quantifiable.
If this all sounds complicated and technical, it is because it truly is. That is why it is very important to work with a reputable medical malpractice attorney who is experienced in bringing successful medical malpractice claims.
What is the standard of care and why is it so important in my case?
The standard of care is an important phrase in medical malpractice cases. Basically, it describes the generally accepted practice and procedure that all medical care providers (in the same geographic location) follow (or should follow) when treating a patient with a specific condition or disorder. The acceptable standard of care will vary greatly depending on a particular patient’s age and general health.
So, the question that must be answered affirmatively in a successful medical malpractice case is whether the medical care provider provided the type of care that a similarly trained medical professional (in the same general location as the defendant) would have given a similarly situated patient. Sometimes, this is a difficult question to answer.
Additionally, the plaintiff must show exactly how the defendant failed to meet the standard of care. It is not enough for a plaintiff to demonstrate that he or she sustained injury during treatment by the defendant. The plaintiff’s legal team must also prove that the sustained injuries were directly caused by the defendant’s failure to adhere to the accepted medical standard of care.
In other words, a plaintiff cannot simply show that the defendant made a mistake; he or she must show that the defendant’s mistake caused the plaintiff’s injuries.
How do I determine what the standard of care is in my case, and how do I show that the defendant failed to meet the standard of care?
In almost every medical malpractice case, the plaintiff must hire a medical expert (with extensive training) to demonstrate to the court:
- What the acceptable standard of care is in the plaintiff’s case;
- How the defendant failed to meet that standard of care; and
- How the defendant’s negligence directly caused the plaintiff’s injuries.
This is an expensive but necessary component of the plaintiff’s case. And, the introduction of this expert to the court must happen very early on the process, by way of an Affidavit of Merit.
The Affidavit of Merit Requirement
In New Jersey, special procedural rules exist in medical malpractice litigation in order to deter frivolous, costly, meritless lawsuits. One of the most important of these procedural rules is the requirement that the plaintiff’s attorney files an Affidavit of Merit within 60 days after the defendant’s legal team files an Answer to the plaintiff’s lawsuit.
An Affidavit of Merit must contain a medical expert’s professional opinion, given under oath, that the defendant’s care of the plaintiff did not meet the acceptable medical standard of care and therefore constituted medical negligence. Essentially, an Affidavit of Merit demonstrates to the court that there is a valid basis for a plaintiff’s medical malpractice lawsuit. The affidavit does not determine the outcome of the case, but rather whether the lawsuit should move forward.
There are specific requirements that must be adhered to with respect to the Affidavit of Merit, and it is therefore critical to hire a competent, experienced medical malpractice legal team.
At the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Hasson, P.C., we represent medical malpractice victims and their families throughout Union City and Hudson County, New Jersey. For a free, no-obligation consultation about your case, call our offices at (201) 254-8484 or contact us online today.