What is Medical Malpractice?

What is Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice involves a medical provider's breach of an applicable standard of care that results in harm to a patient.  The standard of care that applies in a specific situation depends on a number of factors, including the “generally accepted” practices and procedures for other, similarly situated medical providers.

In order to sustain a medical malpractice claim in New Jersey, a plaintiff must show that a defendant deviated from the applicable standard of care, that the deviation proximately caused the plaintiff's injuries, and the plaintiff suffered resulting damages.

Schueler v. Strelinger, 43 N.J. 330, 344 (1964); Rosenberg v. Tavorath, 352 N.J. Super. 385 at 399-400 (App. Div. 2002).  Because the subject matter of medical malpractice cases is typically complex, the services of expert witnesses is essential to sustain a claim.  

In fact, New Jersey law requires the filing of an Affidavit of Merit at the outset of a case by a similarly-qualified medical professional attesting that it is appears that a defendant deviated from the required standard of care.  N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-27.

The statute of limitations for New Jersey medical malpractice lawsuits is generally two (2) years.  Thus, a medical malpractice lawsuit must be filed within 2 years of the date that an injury accrues.  

An exception exists for birth injury cases, which must be filed before the injured child's 13th birthday.  N.J.S.A. 2A:14-2.  In some cases, the Statute of Limitations may be extended, or “tolled.”  

For example, in cases where an injury or harm is not immediately apparent, the 2-year statute of limitations may be begin to run when the patient discovers or reasonably should have discovered that he or she suffered an injury.  Kendall v. Hoffman-La Roche, Inc., 209 N.J. 173 (2012).  

Additionally, when the injured plaintiff is a minor under the age of 18, the 2-year statute of limitations does not begin to run until the minor reaches the age of 18.  N.J.S.A. 2A:14-21.

Plaintiffs who successfully prove a medical malpractice claim may be entitled to “compensatory damages," that compensate for financial losses suffered, and "non-economic damages," that compensate for more abstract losses like pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.  

In certain circumstances, “punitive damages” may also be available for medical malpractice victims who have been subjected to extraordinarily reckless behavior by a healthcare provider.  New Jersey law caps the amount of of punitive damages available to plaintiffs at the greater of $350,000, or 5 times the amount of compensatory damages.  N.J.S.A. 2A:15-5.14.

Given their complexity, New Jersey medical malpractice cases benefit from the involvement of an experienced medical malpractice lawyer.  With The Reinartz Law Firm on your side, you can rest assured that your case will be comprehensively prepared with the support of an experienced legal team.