What is a Certificate of Merit and Why Does It Matter in Medical Malpractice?
In order to file a medical malpractice suit, your lawyer must obtain a doctor’s agreement that you suffered from neglect. Once the attorney obtains this agreement, they can submit a certificate of merit to the court. This certificate is the attorney’s way of swearing that a doctor agrees there is a medical basis to believe you were injured due to negligence. Understand, the certificate is not a guarantee of success. Rather, it is a way of preventing frivolous lawsuits. Certificates of Merit are required in many jurisdictions, including the ones in which Lowenthal & Abrams most frequently practices. In New Jersey these documents are called Affidavits of Merit.
Now, let us tell you about how we evaluate medical malpractice cases and go about getting that certificate.
The First Step in Evaluating a Medical Malpractice Case
When someone comes to us because they or a loved one have been injured due to the negligence of a medical professional or facility, the first thing we do is listen to what happened to them. Then, based on our extensive experience, we evaluate the circumstances to determine if they might have a claim. Since we have both an attorney/doctor and an attorney/nurse on staff, we can quickly look at any case and decide if it is appropriate to go forward. If we believe you might have a case, we request your medical records and review them. After reviewing the records, if we still believe you might have a case, we move on to obtaining the certificate of merit.
Getting a Certificate of Merit
Our next step is to consult with a practicing doctor to obtain his or her opinion. We need doctor in the same field as the one who hurt you to agree that the medical professional or facility in your case did not follow the appropriate standard of care and as a result, caused your damage. Once we obtain this expert opinion, we can swear to the court that we have the appropriate information to go forward with your case.
What is Standard of Care
All doctors and medical professionals have a standard of care that is routine in their profession. Standard of care simply means that the medical professional or facility must do what a similarly situated medical professional would have done in the same case. When a doctor fails to provide the appropriate care and you are injured this is what leads to an action for negligence. Keep in mind the fact a doctor failed to follow the correct standard of care is not enough for a lawsuit. You must have suffered some kind of damage as a result of the doctor’s error(s).
Remember, a Certificate of Merit Does Not Mean you Win
Obtaining a certificate of merit does not mean you will win your case. It simply means you have met the basic threshold required to sue a medical professional or facility. As noted previously, the certificate shows that a practicing doctor agrees that if the medical professional did as you say he did, he was negligent. For an action to be negligence, not only must the doctor have failed in his standard of care, you or your loved one must have suffered an injury due to that failure.
Success Requires Building a Case
Medical malpractice law is one of the most complex areas of practice. It requires a knowledgeable attorney with a solid team backing them up. One who is able to stand toe-to-toe with doctors and other medical professionals, as well as the top defense attorneys their insurance companies hire. At Lowenthal & Abrams, we build our medical malpractice cases, from day one, as if we will need to go to trial. We know that opposing counsel will be doing the same. Each piece of your case, from medical records to interrogatories (written questions you answer) and throughout discovery, is critical to obtaining the best result for our clients.
Contact Us For Help
If you or a loved one were injured due to medical negligence, please contact Lowenthal & Abrams. Our experienced team is here to work with you to get the right result. The consultation is free and there is no fee unless we are successful in obtaining compensation for you.