Victims of medical negligence have rights in every state to sue the responsible parties and to seek to recover damages as well as holding medical professionals accountable for preventable mistakes. New Jersey medical malpractice lawyers are experts in the specific laws of the state who represent these victims. They use their extensive knowledge and experiences to help win their clients justice and compensation for the costs incurred by negligence.
New Jersey ranks high among states for the number of malpractice lawsuits filed. In 2015 lawyers filed 30 lawsuits per 100,000 residents on behalf of their clients. These cases amounted to a total payout of over $256 million. The number of cases places the state number seven out of all 50 states. Patients in the state can rely on the malpractice lawyers to file and win many of these important cases.
New Jersey Medical Malpractice Laws
The laws guiding medical malpractice cases vary by state and it is important for patients to be knowledgeable about them. No lay person, however, can be expected to understand the laws deeply enough to be able to file a lawsuit without expert help. Medical malpractice lawyers in New Jersey have the expertise and the deep knowledge of these laws to guide victims of negligence through the process.
Important laws to understand for patients include the statute of limitations. This sets a time limit on when victims can file their suits. In New Jersey that limit is set at two years from when negligence occurred and caused harm to the patient. This can be extended to two years from the date that the patient discovered the mistake, but this puts the burden of proof on the victim to show that he or she could not have found the mistake earlier. Exceptions to the statute of limitations are for birth injury cases. For these the time limit can begin as late as the child’s 13th birthday.
Also important for patients to understand is that there are often limits, known as caps, on the damages that victims can recover. Compensatory damages for victims are not capped, which means lawyers can seek as much in non-economic and economic damages as seems necessary. The state does, however, cap punitive damages, which are intended to punish the person or facility liable for the negligence. This is capped at $350,000 or at five times the compensatory damages, whichever is larger.
New Jersey’s Affidavit of Merit
A controversial law in New Jersey requires that plaintiffs get an affidavit of merit before filing a lawsuit. This is controversial because critics believe it places a burden on victims of negligence and restricts their right to a fair trial. The law states that plaintiffs must file this affidavit within 60 days of the defendants responding to the notice of a malpractice claim and lawsuit.
The affidavit must come from a qualified medical expert and state that the expert believes the case have merit. This means the expert is of the opinion that negligence likely occurred and that the standard of care was breached. There has to be a separate affidavit filed for each defendant in a case, and if this step is not taken a lawsuit may be dismissed.
Cases of Medical Malpractice in New Jersey
There are a lot of examples of malpractice cases in New Jersey in which the lawyers involved were successful in winning justice for their clients along with compensation to help mitigate the costs caused by the negligence. In one case the result of negligence was the death of a patient. The man, who was only 35, went to the emergency room with abdominal pain. He was given antibiotics and hydromorphone, an opioid painkiller.
The man returned to the ER several weeks later with the same complaint. He was again given hydromorphone, this time in two doses, and with a dose of alprazolam, an anti-anxiety medication. Both drugs are central nervous system depressants. Together they depressed his respiration so much that he stopped breathing and could not be revived. His parents sued and were awarded $795,000. The award was low because the man was single with no children and because of other factors.
Another case in New Jersey resulted in a $3.1 million verdict for the victim of a delayed diagnosis. The patient in the case saw a doctor for anemia in 2013 and was diagnosed six months later with stomach cancer. He died about two years later from the cancer. His family brought the case against the doctor, claiming that he should have ordered an endoscopy much sooner. This would have likely detected the cancer months earlier. By the time the diagnosis was made the cancer had spread and become terminal. The family’s lawyer was able to make this case successfully and the jury awarded $2 million for emotional distress, $250,000 for pain and suffering, and $850,000 for the son of the deceased victim’s loss of a parent and financial support.
A victim in Middlesex County also won a big award thanks to an experienced legal team. The man had to have both of his legs amputated because of a delayed diagnosis and treatment for a circulatory condition. The victim’s lawyers argued that during an emergency room visit there were clear signs that the man needed surgery immediately, but treatment was delayed until it was too late to save his legs. A three-week trial ended in a jury award for future medical expenses and past and future pain and suffering, amounting to $11 million.
Finding a New Jersey Medical Malpractice Lawyer
These impressive results that get victims of negligence the compensation they truly need can only be achieved with experienced and knowledgeable New Jersey medical malpractice lawyers. If you are in this position, and believe you have a case of negligence, find a good lawyer who focuses only on malpractice cases. This will ensure your legal team has the specific expertise and experience to really help you.
Search for your lawyer by starting with the state bar association, which can direct you to specialists in the law. You may even be able to find a lawyer who works with just one type of medical malpractice, such as birth injuries. When you have a few options, interview your lawyers to find out more about their experiences, past cases, results of those cases, and to make sure you are comfortable with your final decision. With the right malpractice lawyer on your side, you have the best chance of finally getting justice for the harm caused to you.