Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About New Jersey Medical Malpractice
- What is Medical Malpractice?
- What are some signs that medical malpractice may have occurred?
- How do I know if medical malpractice has occurred?
- Is there a reporting agency for medical malpractice?
- How long do I have to report a medical malpractice claim in New Jersey?
- What does “a breach of the standard of care” mean in medical malpractice cases?
- What are some of the different types of medical malpractice claims?
- What are some common surgical medical malpractice errors?
- Who’s legally responsible in a medical malpractice claim?
- What damages can I sue for in a medical malpractice case?
- I’ve heard there are caps on the damages I can sue for. Does that apply in New Jersey?
- What do I need to do to pursue a medical malpractice case?
- What do I need to prove in a New Jersey medical malpractice case?
- Do I have to go to court for my medical malpractice case?
- How long will my medical malpractice case take?
- What if I signed an informed consent form – can I still sue for medical malpractice?
- How do I prove injury in a medical malpractice case?
- How much compensation can I receive for my medical malpractice claim?
- What else should I know about New Jersey medical malpractice law?
- Do I need a lawyer for my medical malpractice claim?
What is Medical Malpractice?
Medical professionals treating patients must conform to a certain standard of care for their profession. Medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional deviates from the applicable standard of care, and it results in an injury or death.
What are some signs that medical malpractice may have occurred?
Sometimes medical malpractice is obvious. When a doctor performs surgery on the wrong body part or the wrong procedure on a patient, it’s a pretty obvious sign of malpractice. But other experiences may be more difficult to identify as negligence. Note that an unsatisfactory outcome from a surgery or course of treatment is not necessarily indicative of malpractice. However, if you suffered harm, and suspect it was because your medical provider failed to provide standard medical care or acted in a manner that seems careless or negligent, it’s time to investigate.
How do I know if medical malpractice has occurred?
Chances are that you won’t until a full case review is performed. This is the reason it is important to retain a medical malpractice attorney as soon as you suspect negligence. Your lawyer can have your case reviewed by an appropriate medical professional so you can make a reasoned and informed decision on whether to proceed with a claim.
Is there a reporting agency for medical malpractice?
Yes. If you suspect a medical professional has acted negligently or fraudulently, you may report the occurrence to the State Board of Medical Examiners or the Medical Practitioner Review Panel of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs.
How long do I have to report a medical malpractice claim in New Jersey?
The standard statute of limitations to file a medical malpractice claim in New Jersey is *2 years. The clock starts ticking upon discovery of the malpractice. In the case of government-owned/employed entities, facilities, hospitals, practitioners, etc. you may need to comply with additional requirements, including tort claim notice within 90 days or less.
What does “a breach of the standard of care” mean in medical malpractice cases?
“Standard of care” refers to the generally accepted level of professional medical care deemed necessary by medical practitioners in their area of specialty. Patient age and health impacts this standard. When a physician or other medical provider deviates from or fails to meet this standard, it is considered a breach and may constitute medical negligence. When this causes harm to a patient, it is medical malpractice.
What are some of the different types of medical malpractice claims?
Errors, negligence, and deviation from the standard of care can occur in many different settings, including your primary care doctor’s office, the hospital, pharmacy, emergency room, urgent care clinics, operating rooms, and delivery rooms. There are different ways medical malpractice can occur in each of these settings, and some of them overlap. The following are some common types of medical negligence claims:
- Diagnostic mistakes: failure to diagnose, delayed diagnosis, misdiagnosis, and referral failures
- Medication errors: prescribing errors, dosage errors, failure-to-warn lapses, mislabeling and allergy-related negligence
- Surgical gaffes: surgical incompetence, lack of communication, poor pre-op procedures, substance abuse by the medical staff, fatigue, neglect, carelessness, and anesthesia errors
- Urgent Care oversights: inadequate staffing, poor training, lack of emergency procedure/preparedness, inadequate patient safety controls and measures, regulatory inspection lapses, and inadequate/outdated diagnostic equipment
- Emergency Room Issues: inadequate personnel training, unsanitary conditions, insufficient staffing, poor patient-tracking procedures, medication errors, poor patient evaluations, lab errors, diagnostic errors, insufficient treatment and sloppy triage procedures
- Outpatient Clinic negligence: poor staff training, faulty equipment, sterilization and sanitation problems, inadequate patient monitoring, and wrong site/procedure/patient errors
- Orthopedic medical malpractice: defective surgical implants, surgical errors, faulty placement of metal hardware, medication errors, contaminated musculoskeletal allografts, and postop infections
- Birth Injuries/Obstetrical and Delivery mistakes: poor prenatal testing, clinical judgment mistakes, delayed diagnosis, delayed treatment, inadequate communication, poor prenatal care, negligent oversight of PA’s and nurses and delivery errors
- Administrative errors: poor documentation, patient history omissions, carelessness, insufficient employee screening, and inadequate security
What are some common surgical medical malpractice errors?
Operating on the wrong patient, body site or performing the wrong procedure. Damage to and/or perforation of internal organs that are unrelated to a procedure. Leaving medical instruments inside a patient’s body cavity and improper fixation of surgical devices and hardware inside a patient.
Who’s legally responsible in a medical malpractice claim?
Liability varies depending upon multiple factors, such as the type of error that occurred, the site of the malpractice, and who was involved. Some possible parties include:
- Other medical professionals
- Urgent Care Clinics
- Medical corporations
What damages can I sue for in a medical malpractice case?
You can sue for the following damages in a New Jersey medical malpractice case:
- Economic: Dollar-for-dollar compensation for the medical bills you accrue due to your injuries. Compensation for lost income – past, present and projected future wages. Reimbursement for out-of-pocket monies lost due to the negligence
- Non-economic: Non-tangible damages, such as diminished quality of life, pain and suffering, emotional distress and mental anguish, disfigurement, and permanent impairment or disability
- Punitive: Awarded when the medical provider’s actions are extraordinarily reckless, malicious, and/or fraudulent. Capped in New Jersey.
I’ve heard there are caps on the damages I can sue for. Does that apply in New Jersey?
New Jersey places caps on punitive damages. The cap is equal to $35,000 or no more than five times the compensatory amount, whichever is greater.
What do I need to do to pursue a medical malpractice case?
Your first step should be determining whether your claim rises to the level of medical malpractice. A consultation with a skilled and experienced New Jersey medical malpractice attorney is the most effective way of making this determination.
What do I need to prove in a New Jersey medical malpractice case?
- A deviation from the applicable and accepted standard of care.
- The deviation proximately caused the injuries suffered.
- You suffered damages due to the negligent, substandard medical care.
Do I have to go to court for my medical malpractice case?
A court case may not be necessary, but it is impossible to determine that at the outset. Your attorney can make a better determination once the facts of your case are known, medical records are obtained and reviewed, and medical expert witnesses are consulted.
How long will my medical malpractice case take?
The more complex your case, the more time it will likely take. Assessing the full extent of your injuries and damages should be addressed carefully and methodically, not rushed. The actions and willingness of the medical practitioners and their insurer to negotiate and discuss settlement impacts the time frame, too.
What if I signed an informed consent form – can I still sue for medical malpractice?
In most cases, the answer is yes. If the doctor acted negligently, they is still liable.
How do I prove injury in a medical malpractice case?
Medical records and expert medical witness testimony are typically required to prove that you have sustained an injury and that the harm you suffered was the direct result of the negligent medical treatment or care you received.
How much compensation can I receive for my medical malpractice claim?
Every claim is different, and the amount of damages you may be eligible to receive is dependent upon the specifics of your case. Evaluation and analysis of your claim by a knowledgeable medical malpractice lawyer can help determine what your case may be worth.
It is also important to note that New Jersey medical malpractice law applies a modified comparative negligence rule to damages. If you are partially to blame for your medical condition, illness or injury, any damages you are awarded will be reduced by your percentage of fault.
Example: You failed to follow your doctor’s post-up orders after a surgery. This contributed to your resulting medical issues, and a judge/jury determined you were 15% at fault. Damages awarded were $150,000. This award will be reduced by $22,500 – 15% of your total compensation.
What else should I know about New Jersey medical malpractice law?
In New Jersey, the law requires very specific expert witness qualifications. These physicians must hold the same credentials as the medical professional(s) you are suing.
Do I need a lawyer for my medical malpractice claim?
It is important that you retain the services of a seasoned medical malpractice lawyer who is knowledgeable in New Jersey medical negligence law. The medical professionals you are suing, and their insurance companies, will have a team of lawyers fighting you every step of the way. You will benefit from the skills and resources of a lawyer who will advocate for you and work diligently to prove your claim. Timing is key. The sooner you contact a lawyer, the sooner they can begin preparing your case.