Medical malpractice claims are complex, expert driven cases. This article answers some basic questions about these complicated cases as a starting point for victims of malpractice. If you or someone you know has suffered injury, and you believe it may be due to a medical professional’s failure to provide appropriate care, you should contact an experienced Medical Malpractice lawyer to discuss the circumstances of your case and learn your rights and options.
Q: What is Medical Malpractice (Med-Mal)?
A: Medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional or facility deviates from the accepted standard of care in treating a patient, and as a result the patient is injured. Medical malpractice can be difficult to detect, though there are many ways it can occur. Some common types of malpractice involve:
- Diagnosis error / failure to diagnose
- Surgical errors
- Post-surgical complications
- Treatment errors
- ER errors
- Medication errors
- Anesthesia mistakes
- Birth injuries
- OB/GYN malpractice
- Nursing malpractice
- Patient monitoring errors/negligence
Medical malpractice lawsuits fall under civil law and are considered torts, or civil wrongs.
Q: How do I prove a medical malpractice claim?
A: You and your attorney must prove the following to successfully pursue a med-mal claim.
- Demonstrate that the defendant owed you a professional duty of care.
- Show that the defendant breached the duty of care.
- Establish that the defendant’s breach proximately caused your injuries.
- Prove that you have suffered damages.
Q: How is the duty of care determined?
A: This is the generally accepted standard of care that a healthcare professional or medical facility is expected to provide a patient. A medical professional who is accused of medical malpractice is essentially compared to other healthcare providers with the same experience and training. The defendant’s actions are measured against the actions of the comparable health professionals performing under similar circumstances. A determination of the standard of care is largely developed through testimony of expert witnesses.
Q: Who can be sued for medical malpractice?
A: There are many potential parties who can be sued for medical malpractice. Some of possible defendants are:
- Healthcare clinics
- Surgery Centers
- Lab technicians
- Hospital workers
- Physical therapists
- Psychologists / psychiatrists
- Medical specialists
Q: What damages can I recover for a medical malpractice claim?
A: Medical malpractice victims can sue for compensatory and punitive damages. The type and amount of damages you recover depends on the type and severity of the injuries, and defendants’ level of negligence or malfeasance. Damages awarded may include compensation for the following:
- Medical expenses, current and future
- Wage loss, past and present
- Rehabilitation services
- Long-term care costs
- Long-term disability
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Pain and suffering
Q: How much will I have to pay for a medical malpractice case?
A: At the Reinartz Law Firm, medical malpractice cases accepted by the firm are handled on a contingency basis. This means that you don’t pay us until we get you money for your injuries.
Q: Can I still sue if I was injured, but I didn’t completely follow my doctor’s instructions?
A: In some cases, a patient may be partially at fault for his or her injuries. Perhaps you didn’t follow your physician’s advice and this may have contributed to the harm you suffered. New Jersey applies the modified comparative negligence rule in med-mal cases. As long as you were less than 50 percent responsible for your injury, you can still recover damages. However, your compensation may be reduced by your percentage of fault.
Q: How soon must I file my claim?
A: New Jersey law establishes time limits to sue, called statutes of limitations. For a medical malpractice case, you must typically file within two years of the date of the injury-causing event or malpractice, or two years from the time you discovered (or should have reasonably discovered) the harm or injury caused by the malpractice.
If you were a minor when the malpractice occurred, the two-year time limit doesn’t start until your 18th birthday. An exception to this rule exists when the malpractice occurred at birth. In those cases, the claim must be filed before the injured child turns 13.
Q: Are there limits to the amount I can sue for in my medical malpractice case?
A: New Jersey law sets a cap on punitive damages at $350,000 or five times the amount awarded for compensatory damages, whichever is greater. Compensatory damages in these cases have no maximum cap.