Fact Sheet About Medical Malpractice
New Jersey individuals and families depend on their doctors’ and nurses’ skills, education, and training to help them manage their health and quickly treat any illnesses or disorders that may develop. But doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals are human and prone to committing careless acts or having lapses in judgment. This can give rise to a medical malpractice claim. Did you know that, according to a 2006 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine:
- The majority of medical malpractice injury victims were females and were, on average, 38 years of age?
- Obstetricians-gynecologists (OBGYNs) were most likely to have a medical malpractice lawsuit filed against them?
- Prevailing injured patients who brought a medical malpractice lawsuit recovered, on average, over $400,000 if their case settled and nearly $800,000 if their case went to trial before a jury?
- Less than one-quarter of injured patients who take their medical malpractice case to trial before a jury succeed in their case and are able to recover compensation?
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Christopher M. Placitella
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Stewart L. Cohen
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Harry M. Roth
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Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations in New Jersey: Understanding the Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice Suits in New Jersey
If you believe you or a family member were injured by medical malpractice, you should not wait to act. There are legal actions that can be taken to recover damages for those injuries but there are time limits to pursuing a lawsuit and potentially obtaining a recovery. The time limits are established by a law called the statute of limitations.
If a lawsuit is not timely started within the time limit established by the statute of limitations, your right to recover against those who, by the investigation are determined to have caused your injuries will be lost. If you are thinking about pursuing a medical malpractice case in New Jersey, you need to understand your rights and limitations.
Purpose of the Statute of Limitations in New Jersey Medical Malpractice Cases
A statute of limitations exists to ensure lawsuits are filed and can be resolved in a timely manner and they provide a defense to lawsuits that are filed too late. The time limit also means that those who believe they are injured by medical malpractice must take action to investigate and file a lawsuit before memories fade, witnesses move, and to assure you can gather the facts needed to pursue a claim. If you believe you’re a victim of medical malpractice, the clock is already ticking on the time you have to bring a case.
The statute of limitations should encourage you to contact a lawyer as soon as possible to avoid any prejudice to your rights.
What Is a Statute of Limitations?
A statute of limitations, also known as a prescriptive period, is the period of time after an alleged negligent act occurs in which a plaintiff must bring a civil lawsuit. If the statute of limitations expires, injured parties can no longer file a claim, with few exceptions. A court may dismiss a case if the defendant proves the claim was initiated after the statute of limitations ran out.
In US medical malpractice cases, the statute of limitations varies from state to state. Therefore, if you believe you have been injured as a result of medical malpractice, it is important to consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney right away to understand what statute of limitations may apply to your case.
Why Is There a Statute of Limitations in Medical Malpractice Cases?
A statute of limitations exists to facilitate a conclusion to a case within a reasonable amount of time. For medical malpractice cases, the statute of limitations can also bring peace of mind to physicians and medical providers. Another reason for a statute of limitations is to ensure that crucial evidence remains accessible and is not lost over time.
This is especially important for evidence like witness statements, which are based on memory. This can help guarantee a fair trial for both plaintiff and the defendant.
How Long Is the Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice Lawsuits in New Jersey?
In New Jersey, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits is two years. Keep in mind that collecting evidence and building a successful liability case takes significant time. It’s best to begin the process with your attorney right away.
In many cases, victims may not immediately know that they’ve been injured. For instance, it may not be clear for several years whether an injury occurred. Injuries caused by medical negligence may take time to manifest.
Because of this, the law recognizes that the statute of limitations time period may not begin until the patient knows, or through the exercise of reasonable diligence could have discovered they have been harmed through medical negligence. When a patient knew, or whether they exercised reasonable diligence are fact-specific determinations. To protect your potential claim, if you believe you have been harmed by medical negligence you should speak with an attorney about your rights.
How New Jersey Courts Define Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice takes many forms, and the definition can change based on your location and even local medical liability reform. Before you file your claim, you must meet the legal and evidentiary criteria to bring a medical malpractice case to New Jersey.
What Are Some Common Types of Medical Malpractice?
The most common types of medical malpractice include the following:
- Misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis
- Birth injuries
- Surgical errors
- Prescription drug errors
- There are resources beyond personal recommendations from family, friends, or other physicians for selecting a doctor.
Who Can File a Medical Malpractice Claim in New Jersey?
An injured person or, if they are unable to do so, a representative of the person can file a medical malpractice claim in New Jersey. To be successful, an injured person must be able to prove two critical elements. First, they must be able to sufficiently prove that their physician or medical provider provided substandard medical care.
Second, a plaintiff must be able to prove that this substandard care resulted in a distinct, quantifiable injury. Developing this proof requires an attorney to work with competent medical experts. If you can prove these two elements, you may be able to pursue a medical malpractice claim.
When it comes to wrongful death claims, the executor of the will or the administrator of the estate may make a claim. Beneficiaries in wrongful death cases are the spouse, children, or in some cases parents if they can prove dependence on the deceased. Parents may file medical malpractice claims on behalf of their minor children.
To protect the minor, any settlement above $5,000, must be approved by a judge. In addition, the settlement money may be preserved in a trust fund or a custodial account for the benefit of the minor.
What Evidence Must Plaintiffs Provide in a Medical Malpractice Case in New Jersey?
To prove medical liability in court, a plaintiff must provide evidence of four things:
- A healthcare provider had a duty to provide a specific standard of care
- The healthcare provider breached this standard
- This breach in the standard of care caused or contributed to a patient’s injury
- The patient suffered damages as a result
A plaintiff must prove these elements through expert testimony. In fact, in New Jersey, after a lawsuit is filed, a medical professional certifies that medical negligence occurred and that there is a legitimate case to pursue. This is called a Certificate of Merit. You will also need medical records and witness testimony to support your claim for medical malpractice and to prove the extent of your damages.
How to File a Medical Malpractice Case in New Jersey to Stay within the Statue of Limitations
Filing a medical malpractice case requires significant investigation and expert support. Gathering the records, reviewing them, and coordinating with appropriate experts takes time. For that reason, an injured patient or their family should not hesitate to reach out to an experienced medical malpractice lawyer who provides this evaluation and decide whether they will file a lawsuit well before the statute of limitations expires.
What Are the Initial Requirements for Bringing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit in New Jersey?
Along with filing a complaint – the document that begins a lawsuit – the plaintiff must file a Certificate of Merit and the claim must be filed within the statute of limitations. The most important step you can take to file a claim on time is to begin the process as quickly as possible. This ensures you and your lawyer have enough time to collect evidence and expert testimony before the statute of limitations expires.
Who Can Help You File a Medical Malpractice Case and Stay within the Statute of Limitations in New Jersey?
An experienced personal injury lawyer will be your greatest asset throughout a medical malpractice case. They can help you gather all the required evidence to prove medical negligence and navigate through any legal roadblocks in your case. Initial consultations to evaluate your case are generally free.
In fact, your attorney will likely be representing you pursuant to a contingency fee agreement. In short, this means you won’t have to pay costs or hourly attorney’s fees out of pocket. Your lawyer will collect a percentage of your settlement and recoup costs, only if you receive compensation.
How Long Does It Typically Take to Complete the Initial Steps of a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit in New Jersey?
The initial investigation of a potential medical malpractice claim could take several months. Medical records relating to the underlying treatment, as well as the treatment for injuries, must be obtained and reviewed. Appropriate experts must be consulted and each of these steps takes time.
Once a lawyer recommends that a lawsuit be filed, the next stages begin relatively quickly. A complaint and certificate of merit are filed by the plaintiff. The defendants will each file an answer. These are pleadings and when that portion is completed, the parties engage in discovery.
The discovery phase is when each party through written questions or interrogatories and takes the testimony of witnesses and parties which are called depositions. The number of parties involved, and the complexity of the case can impact the time it takes to complete this phase. The severity of your injuries, the availability of evidence, emotional trauma, whether a wrongful death claim is involved, and other complicating factors could affect the timeline.
The purpose of the discovery phase is to allow each party to understand the claims and defenses in the case and to assess the risk they face going to trial. And so, after you complete the initial steps, courts encourage settlement negotiations. If your case does not settle it will be scheduled for trial.
Each county has differing schedules and backlogs of cases that will impact when a case is called to trial. According to a survey by Medscape, the average length of a malpractice case is one to two years.
What to Do If You Are Beyond the Statute of Limitations for Your Medical Malpractice Case in New Jersey
The statute of limitations can be an unforgiving bar preventing legitimate but untimely claims. However, in some cases, you may have more time than you think. New Jersey follows the “discovery rule.”
Under this rule, the statute of limitations does not begin to run until a plaintiff discovers, or through the exercise of reasonable diligence should have discovered, that they were injured as a result of medical negligence, When a plaintiff knew, or whether they exercised reasonable diligence to learn they were injured by medical malpractice are fact specific determinations and so, if you think this exception may apply to you, you should contact a lawyer to discuss this promptly.
It is also important to remember that under New Jersey, for injured minors, or individuals who are not deemed competent under the law, the two-year period does not start until the removal of this legal disability. In most cases of minors that means the period begins when they are eighteen. (That said, in cases where a minor is injured at birth after July 7, 2004, they have until their 13th birthday to file a lawsuit.)
What Are Your Options in New Jersey if the Statute of Limitations Has Passed?
Unfortunately, if the statute of limitations has run out, there are no legal options available to you under medical malpractice law. Essentially, you have forfeited your right to sue. Filing a case outside the statute of limitations will only lead to a swift dismissal. This is why it is so critical to promptly consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney if you believe you were injured due to medical malpractice.
What Is the Discovery Rule in Medical Malpractice Cases?
The discovery rule provides that the two-year statute of limitations period does not begin until the patient knew, or through the exercise of reasonable diligence could have learned they were harmed by a doctor’s negligence. However, this is a fact-specific determination that can be challenged by the defendants. It is possible that you might have to attend an extra court hearing. During these proceedings, the plaintiff delivers a testimony about the date they discovered the medical malpractice and the investigation taken to learn about why they were injured.
If a lawsuit is not filed within the statute of limitations, you will have no further rights against any defendant you claim, or by investigation may be determined to have caused your injuries. For this reason, it is best to contact a lawyer right away if you think you’ve been harmed by medical malpractice.
How Can You Ensure That You File Your Medical Malpractice Lawsuit within the Statute of Limitations?
First, contact a medical malpractice lawyer quickly to begin the process. Second, you can reduce delays in your case by collecting your own medical records as soon as possible. Gathering medical records can take between two and four months. Put in a request for your records immediately to speed up the process.
Injured patients in New Jersey whose injuries are the result of medical carelessness find themselves in a difficult position. Compensation is available for their injuries and losses, but first they must prove that their doctor, nurse, or other medical professional rendered care that was objectively unreasonable and careless given the professional’s specialty, age, education, and the community in which the injury occurred. The skilled attorneys at Cohen, Placitella & Roth, P.C. can give injured patients an advantage when they have been injured by a medical professional.
Common Types of Injuries Caused by Medical Malpractice
When a doctor or other healthcare worker fails to take the proper precautions when treating a patient, the patient may suffer serious, debilitating injuries. In some cases, the patient may die: in other cases, the patient’s life expectancy or chance of survival may be diminished. The patient may also need to seek additional medical care to treat or manage the harm done by the negligent professional. Some common types of injuries resulting from acts of medical malpractice include:
Where the professional either diagnoses the patient with the wrong ailment or fails to detect an ailment at all.
Can occur when a doctor does not clearly explain to a pharmacist or to the patient how a prescribed medication is supposed to be taken or if the doctor prescribes a medication that interacts negatively with another medication the patient is taking
Operations on the wrong side
Of the patient or the removal of the incorrect limb happens at an alarming rate. Not only is the patient harmed and has had a functioning body part unnecessarily removed, but the body part that did need treatment or removal is still present and causing harm to the patient.
Contact Cohen, Placitella & Roth, P.C. To Handle Your New Jersey Medical Malpractice Case Today.
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Whatever the precise nature of your injury, the New Jersey medical malpractice lawyers at Cohen, Placitella & Roth, P.C. are equipped to help you recover the compensation you need to address your medical expenses, costs of additional treatment, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other similar losses.
Investigating Medical Malpractice Requires Resources
Medical malpractice cases in New Jersey are notoriously complex matters that can require careful investigation and consultation with medical experts in order for the injured patient-plaintiff to have a reasonable chance of succeeding in collecting compensation. Unfortunately for most patient-plaintiffs, the time and resources these investigations and consultations require are greater than the time and resources they have available to them. That is why it is important to retain the services of a New Jersey medical malpractice law firm that is able to efficiently conduct the necessary investigation and consultations in order to prepare your medical malpractice case for trial.
Expert witnesses play a crucial role in your medical malpractice case. These individuals – usually medical professionals with a considerable amount of experience practicing in the same medical field as the allegedly-negligent doctor or professional in your case – are called upon to review the records in your case and render an informed opinion as to whether the actions of your doctor or healthcare worker met minimum acceptable standards for medical care. In addition to expert witnesses, your own testimony and the testimony of any other professionals or medical workers present in the room at the time of the alleged malpractice (such as other doctors, nurses, employees, etc.) will work together to “paint a picture” for the judge or jury as to how you were injured and the role that medical negligence played in causing your injuries.
The testimony of your expert and lay witnesses will need to be bolstered and corroborated with objective evidence. This increases the credibility of your witnesses’ testimony in the eyes of the judge and/or jury. Your medical records will be important in establishing the care and treatments you did – and did not – receive around the time of your injuries. The results of any tests or procedures conducted after your injury in order to diagnose and/or correct the injuries you received will also play an important role in your medical malpractice case. Finally, any procedural manuals, hospital policy manuals, or written and accepted “standards of care” can be extremely helpful in showing what the allegedly-negligent professional ought to have done in your case.
The New Jersey medical malpractice attorneys at Cohen, Placitella & Roth, P.C. have over 40 years of experience in investigating and presenting medical malpractice cases in court. This means our firm has the resources and experience necessary to conduct a thorough and complete investigation into your case quickly and efficiently. This means that we are able to inform you in a timely manner of your precise legal rights and take swift action to help you obtain compensation for your injuries.
Cohen, Placitella & Roth, P.C. offers a FREE CONSULTATION.Contact us today to discuss how we can help
127 Maple Avenue
Red Bank, NJ 07701
Phone: (732) 747-9003
Fax: (215) 567-6019
Over 40 Years of Outstanding Results and Hundreds of Millions Recovered for our Medical Malpractice Victims and Others
It is easy for any law firm to claim they will work hard to help medical malpractice victims recover compensation: Cohen, Placitella & Roth, P.C., however, is able to back this statement up with decades of verifiable experience and documented settlements and verdicts. We our proud of our firm’s long history of helping New Jersey families recover compensation after a medical malpractice incident, including:
Recovering $3 million on behalf of a woman who suffered a stroke because her doctor failed to make a proper diagnosis.
Obtaining $3.25 million on behalf of an injured patient blinded because of a medical error in administering anesthesia.
Recovering $7.5 million on behalf of the family of a newborn infant born with cerebral palsy as a result of medical negligence during the child’s delivery.
Securing $14.5 million on behalf of a child who suffered brain damage because the doctor failed to properly manage the child’s post-operative care.
While results in prior cases do not guarantee similar results in your case the following listing of recent case victories should hopefully provide you with the assurance that we are experienced and know how to get you the compensation you deserve.