New Jersey Legislation Changes Medical Malpractice Suits

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A controversial new ruling may significantly change the process of seeking legal recourse in malpractice suits. The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled on April 25 that expert witnesses called in medical malpractice cases must specialize in the same field of medicine as the accused doctor. This new ruling could have a profound effect on any future malpractice suits in the state of New Jersey.

Precedent for the change in procedure was found in a 2007 malpractice suit filed by a construction worker who suffered brain damage due to carbon monoxide poisoning. The expert witness called in the case testified that a different treatment may have spared the man his injuries. The judge responsible for this new ruling asserted her testimony should not have been allowed by the trial judge due to a stipulation in the 2004 Patients First Act, which disallows testimony that calls another doctor’s methods into question when such testimony is presented by a doctor from a different medical field.

Proponents of this new measure call it fair and justifiable and presume that it will ensure only “meritorious” cases are allowed to proceed. However, critics argue that locating appropriate expert witnesses within this limited scope will make it more difficult, and potentially more expensive, for individuals to pursue malpractice cases. The decision was passed unanimously with a vote of 6-0.

Medical malpractice suits can seem challenging to navigate at the best of times, and quite often those pressing charges are not at their best as a result of their injuries. That’s why it can be so beneficial to understand the rights and responsibilities associated with filing such a complaint, in New Jersey or elsewhere in the country. Staying up-to-date on rulings like this one can help you better prepare for your day in court.

Source: nj.com, “N.J. Supreme Court toughens rule on experts in medical malpractice cases,” Susan K. Livio, April 26, 2013

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