Is it Difficult to Obtain an Affidavit of Merit in a Medical Malpractice Case in NJ?

Medical SymbolIn the state of New Jersey, people who have been injured as a result of medical malpractice or who want to file a wrongful death case involving medical malpractice are required to submit a document called an Affidavit of Merit. This is a document provided under oath by a licensed expert in the same field, attesting to the “reasonable probability of professional negligence.” The law requiring this document was first passed in 1995, with the goal of preventing people from filing frivolous malpractice claims against professionals of all types. Over the years, the law has been modified in an attempt to make it less challenging and punitive to people who have been injured, but it still remains a challenge to remain in full compliance.

Under the Affidavit of Merit rules, the plaintiff, or person who is filing the lawsuit, is required to file an affidavit of merit no more than 60 days after the defendant files their answer to the complaint against them. An additional 60 days is available as an extension if the judge in the case believes there is good cause to provide an extension, but that can only happen once. Still, there have been additional exceptions added over the years to go around rules that were viewed as inflexible and to address specific situations that could lead to a plaintiff being unfairly held responsible for problems in getting the document filed.

One of the most challenging aspects of getting an Affidavit of Merit in medical malpractice cases is that the expert providing the statement indicating that the defendant deviated from acceptable standards of the profession must practice in the same specialty within the medical field. Failure to meet this and other requirements of the Affidavit of Merit statute can result in the defendant obtaining a motion to dismiss your case entirely. Also complicating the matter is a requirement that a separate affidavit of merit is prepared and filed for each health care provider named as a defendant in the case. This means that if your suit is naming a surgeon, an anesthesiologist, and a surgical nurse involved in an operation, you need three affidavits submitted by those types of professionals in active medical practice.

Having an experienced medical malpractice attorney representing you in your case is the best way to ensure that all of these requirements are met. For information about your case, contact our office at your earliest convenience to set up an appointment.