What is a Certificate of Merit in Medical Malpractice Cases?
Medical malpractice cases are some of the most complicated in the area of civil law. It can be challenging to prove that a doctor or other healthcare professional was negligent, and these cases can take an extremely long time before a settlement is reached or compensation is awarded by a judge.
Medical malpractice cases in Pennsylvania also have certain requirements that are not present in other civil lawsuits. One of these is the certificate of merit. This certificate is a requirement in all medical malpractice claims in the state, and can further complicate a claim. A certificate of merit must be obtained before, or shortly after, a medical malpractice lawsuit is filed. Due to this, it is very important anyone wishing to file a claim understands what these certificates include.
Understanding Negligence in Medical Malpractice Claims
To understand the certificate of merit requirement in medical malpractice lawsuits, one must first understand the idea of negligence. Negligence is the basis of all personal injury lawsuits, and medical malpractice cases are no exception.
When a doctor or other healthcare worker has acted negligently, they have failed to provide a proper standard of care to a patient. In order for a claim to be made, that negligence must have resulted in injury to the patient.
It is important that injured patients know the difference between an unpleasant medical outcome and negligence. Treatments don’t always necessarily work, and there may be nothing else a doctor can do in certain cases. This does not necessarily constitute negligence. In order to be negligent, a doctor must have failed to provide an adequate standard of care.
In order to help prove this, medical malpractice lawsuits in Pennsylvania require a certificate of merit. Obtaining this certificate is not only a requirement under Pennsylvania law, it can also be very helpful to a case.
Certificates of Merit
The requirement for a certificate of merit in medical malpractice cases is outlined in Rule 1042.3 of the Pennsylvania Code. Under this rule the plaintiff, the person filing the lawsuit or their attorney, must obtain a certificate of merit.
A certificate of merit is a statement from an “appropriate licensed professional.” This means that the professional must hold a medical license, and typically must be in an equal professional position as the defendant. Within the statement, the professional must state that they have reviewed the plaintiff’s claim and concluded that the defendant did not follow acceptable, professional standards of care. An example of a certificate of merit can also be found in the Pennsylvania Code under Rule 1042.10.
The certificate of merit must be obtained from the licensed professional soon after a lawsuit is filed. Many plaintiffs file it along with the original allegations and lawsuit, but it can be filed up to 60 days after the lawsuit is initiated.
Why You Must Contact a Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Attorney
Medical malpractice lawsuits can be some of the most complicated to file and argue in court. Certificates of merit are just one aspect that makes these cases so challenging. In addition to this these cases are also very lengthy, they typically involve insurance issues, and doctors also have their own teams of lawyers arguing their defense.
If you have been injured while seeking medical treatment and you believe it could have been due to medical malpractice, contact a Pennsylvania medical malpractice lawyer at van der Veen, O’Neill, Hartshorn, and Levin right away. We can assist with the complicated aspects of these cases, and give you the best chance of claiming the compensation you may be entitled to.