New Jersey’s Medical Malpractice Laws
Posted on behalf of Lynch Law Firm on Feb 16, 2018 in Medical Malpractice News
When a health care provider’s negligent treatment causes harm to a patient or worsens his or her condition, the patient may be entitled to compensation by filing a medical malpractice lawsuit.
However, these types of cases are often complex and require a strong understanding of New Jersey’s medical malpractice laws, including when you should file your case and how to prove a health care provide treated you with substandard care.
If you were injured by a health care provider’s negligent or careless treatment, contact the Lynch Law Firm’s medical malpractice attorneys in New Jersey. We have the skills and experience you need to handle your claim and hold a negligent health care provider liable for your suffering and losses. Do not hesitate to schedule a free legal review with our New Jersey personal injury lawyers to determine if it you have a case that entitles you to compensation.
What Is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice occurs when a health care provider injures his or her patient by providing a substandard level of care. Often, medical negligence results in severe adverse complications that put patients at risk of serious injury or death.
However, the four elements of malpractice must be present in your claim to prove a health care provider treated a patient with a substandard level of care. This requires showing that the health care provider’s actions failed to meet the standards of the medical community and that failure caused you harm.
Statute of Limitations
New Jersey has a strict deadline of two years for medical malpractice lawsuits, according to N.J. State § 2A:14-2(a)(b). The general rule is that a medical malpractice claim must be filed within two years from the date of the injury or when the patient should have been reasonably aware of the injury.
Likewise, wrongful death lawsuits that are attributed to medical malpractice must be filed within two years from the date of death.
However, there are some exceptions to New Jersey’s statute of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits, including:
Injuries to Minors
If the patient was a minor at the time the medical negligence occurred, the child has until the date he or she turns 18 years old to bring a lawsuit against the at-fault health care provider. However, if the child died as a result of medical malpractice, the claim must be brought within two years of the child’s death.
Furthermore, if a child sustained an obvious birth injury that is attributed to medical malpractice, the case must be filed by the child’s 13th birthday.
The statute of limitations may also be delayed if a patient who was injured by a negligent health care provider is found to be mentally ill or disabled.
Generally, the two-year deadline will resume again on the date he or she is found to have returned to a sound mental state.
Affidavit of Merit
New Jersey law requires that in any lawsuit alleging medical malpractice, the victim filing the suit must provide an affidavit of merit that states there is a reasonable probability your injury was caused by negligent medical treatment.
Generally, this requires a qualified medical expert to declare under oath that the care, skill or knowledge exercised or exhibited in your treatment fell outside the accepted standards of the medical community.
This affidavit must be filed within 60 days from the date the health care provider files a formal response to your complaint. However, a New Jersey court may grant you an additional 60 days to get the affidavit submitted if there is reasonable cause to grant the extension, according to N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2.1.:53A-27.
An affidavit of merit must be submitted by an “appropriate licensed person” who is:
- A qualified expert that has an active medical practice as a general practitioner
- Actively practicing medicine in an area of medicine that includes the medical condition for which you were being treated
- Teaching in an accredited medical school in the same health care profession as the at-fault health care provider who you are suing
Furthermore, a separate affidavit of merit must be prepared and filed against each health care provider or medical institution that you are filing a medical malpractice lawsuit against. If you fail to prepare and submit an affidavit of merit, it could result in your case being dismissed.
In order to limit the compensation victims can pursue in medical malpractice lawsuits, New Jersey has placed caps on certain types of damages.
Economic damages, or compensatory damages, include compensation for the financial losses you suffered because of negligent medical treatment. This can include compensation for:
- Past and future medical care
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity
- Additional hospital visits
- Medical testing and imaging
- Assistive medical equipment
- Corrective surgery
Currently, New Jersey law does not have a cap limiting the amount of economic damages a victim can pursue through a medical malpractice claim.
In some cases, victims of medical negligence may be entitled to compensation for the intangible suffering they endured after receiving substandard treatment.
This is referred to as noneconomic damages and includes compensation for:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of reputation
As with economic damages, New Jersey does not have a cap limiting the amount of noneconomic damages a medical malpractice victim may be entitled to receive.
However, noneconomic damages cannot be obtained through a medical malpractice claim filed with the at-fault party’s insurance company. Instead, you must file a lawsuit against the negligent health care provide or medical institution to obtain compensation for noneconomic damages.
In rare cases, a court may order the at-fault party in a lawsuit to pay the victim punitive damages as an additional monetary award to punish the at-fault party for especially negligent, reckless or malicious behavior, and to deter similar conduct in the future.
New Jersey limits the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded in a medical malpractice lawsuit to $350,000 or five times the amount of compensatory damages, whichever is greater, according to NJ Rev. Stat. § 2A:15-5.14.
In some situations, the health care provider may argue that you contributed to your injuries, which may occur if you did not follow the doctor’s orders.
When a victim is partially at fault for causing his or her own injuries, New Jersey uses the rule of modified comparative negligence to determine the compensation the victim is able to receive.
Under modified comparative negligence, your compensation award will be reduced by the percentage of fault you had in contributing to your injuries. This applies so long as long as you were not more than 50 percent at fault for your injuries.
Schedule a Free Consultation to Discuss Your Claim
Medical malpractice cases can be complex and require the help of a lawyer who has experience helping victims of medical negligence.
The Lynch Law Firm’s New Jersey medical malpractice attorneys will work to develop a case on your behalf to pursue the maximum compensation you deserve for your claim. We will provide you with a free, no obligation consultation to discuss the circumstances behind your injury and determine if you have a case. Our attorneys work only on a contingency fee basis, which means we only charge for our services if we recover compensation for your claim.
Call (800) 518-0508 to get started today.
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