There are many steps involved in a medical malpractice lawsuit in New Jersey. One of the first and most important steps in the process of filing a medical malpractice claim is called the Affidavit of Merit. An Affidavit of Merit, also known as a Certification of Merit, is intended to demonstrate to the court that a claim has enough validity to warrant litigation. The purpose of the Affidavit of Merit (AOM) is to save the State the time and expense associated with litigation by filtering out frivolous lawsuits. In this article, our experienced New Jersey medical malpractice attorneys provide important information regarding the Affidavit of Merit and explain why the AOM is critical to the success of your medical malpractice claim in New Jersey.
Affidavit of Merit for a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit in NJ Explained
An affidavit is a sworn statement used as evidence in court. The term “Affidavit of Merit” refers to the requirement that a plaintiff filing a lawsuit against a licensed professional have an expert stating the claim is meritorious, or has merit. The AOM requirement applies in cases involving medical professionals, as well as other licensed professionals in New Jersey. As mentioned above, the purpose of this certification is to prevent frivolous lawsuits.
New Jersey passed its Affidavit of Merit Statute, N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-26 to -29, in 1995. Since its initial enactment, the New Jersey Supreme Court has issued several rulings that serve to further clarify the law regarding these certifications. In essence, the Affidavit of Merit is an affidavit from an “appropriate licensed person,” stating that the defendant did, in fact, fail to provide an acceptable standard of care.
Medical Experts for Affidavits of Merit (AOM)
Generally, a medical expert must be used for an Affidavit of Merit. In 2004, New Jersey passed its Patients First Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-41, which imposed additional requirements for expert witnesses who can be used for Affidavits of Merit. Now, an expert witness for an AOM must be board-certified and specialized in the same area as the defendant in a medical malpractice case. This criteria is intended to further the likelihood that claims without merit will not proceed through the court system.
The expert providing the Affidavit of Merit is called upon to swear that the doctor or medical professional named in the lawsuit deviated from the appropriate standard of care in a given situation. In essence, the AOM provides the claim with some legitimacy. This does not mean that the overall medical malpractice claim will be successful, but it is an initial step in the right direction.
When you enlist our firm, our attorneys first conduct a thorough investigation of your case to identify any and all forms of possible negligence on the part of doctors, nurses, medical staff, hospitals, and others who were involved in your care. We then consult with medical experts from our vast network to get an opinion from a medical authority in the appropriate specialty. If the circumstances so warrant, the expert will attest to the following in the Affidavit of Merit:
- The medical professional or facility failed to provide the appropriate standard of care; and
- This negligence led to your injuries.
Time Limits for Filing an Affidavit of Merit
New Jersey imposes strict time limits for filing the Affidavit of Merit in a medical malpractice case. According to N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-27, within 60 days of the filing of the defendant’s answer to the complaint, the plaintiff must provide each defendant with “an affidavit of an appropriate licensed person that there exists a reasonable probability that the care, skill or knowledge exercised or exhibited in the treatment, practice or work that is the subject of the complaint, fell outside acceptable professional or occupational standards or treatment practices.” The plaintiff may be provided with one 60-day extension to file the AOM if they can show good cause.
Adhering to the procedural requirements associated with the Affidavit of Merit is absolutely imperative. If an AOM is not filed within the appropriate time limits, a medical malpractice claim may be dismissed.
Want to Know if your Medical Malpractice Claim has Merit? Contact an Experienced NJ Medical Malpractice Lawyer for a Free Case Evaluation
If you or a loved one experienced injuries that may have resulted from medical malpractice in New Jersey, it is worth finding out if you have grounds for a claim. The knowledgeable team of medical malpractice lawyers at Fronzuto Law Group will conduct a comprehensive examination of your case and walk you through every step of the legal process as we fight for the compensation you deserve. Contact our Woodland Park office at 973-435-4551 or contact us online today to arrange a free case evaluation.