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The Basics of New Jersey Medical Malpractice Law

Let's say you are a pregnant woman going into labor in New Jersey and a birth injury occurs to the baby during delivery. These injuries cause you to rack up large medical bills. Can you sue the doctor or hospital that you believe is at fault for causing your child's birth injuries? To know the answer to this question, you will need to have at least a basic understanding of New Jersey malpractice law.

In addition, you will want to seek the advice of a New Jersey malpractice lawyer. New Jersey medical malpractice lawyers can help assess the strengths and weaknesses of your claim, and provide you with legal representation throughout the litigation process.

What Is New Jersey Malpractice?

Each state sets its own definition for what constitutes medical malpractice. In general, most states' laws parallel one another. New Jersey malpractice law is no exception.

According to New Jersey medical malpractice law, medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare professional or a healthcare institution breaches, or violates, the standard of care, which, in turn, causes harm to the patient. This breach is known as medical negligence.

The standard of care is the generally accepted procedures and practices all medical providers in the geographic area would use when treating a patient with a particular disorder. This standard of care will vary depending on a number of factors, including the patient's overall health and age. This means that the standard of care for a 45-year-old patient with a sore throat might be a different standard of care than the one used for a 13-year-old patient with a sore throat.

To prove medical malpractice in New Jersey, it is not enough that you sustained injury during the course of treatment. You and your attorney will have to prove this injury was directly caused by the medical provider's breach. Oftentimes this requires the use of expert witnesses who have extensive medical training.

Statute of Limitations on New Jersey Medical Malpractice Claims

New Jersey has established limits on how long a patient can wait to file suit in medical malpractice cases. These limits, known as the statute of limitations, are very strict in most circumstances. This means that once the allowable amount of time has passed, you can no longer file a medical malpractice claim.

According to New Jersey medical malpractice law, a patient has up to two years to file a lawsuit against a healthcare provider for medical malpractice. This two-year countdown begins when the doctor breaches the standard of care.

However, sometimes a patient does not realize he or she has been injured until well after the incident of medical negligence occurs. In these situations, New Jersey law says the statute of limitations does not begin counting down until the point when the patient should be reasonably aware that injury has occurred.

Damage Caps in New Jersey

Another aspect of New Jersey medical malpractice law is damages caps. Damages are the money an injured patient seeks from the healthcare provider who caused the injury. There are several types of damages available to a patient in medical malpractice cases.

The main type of damages is known as compensatory damages. These are fairly straightforward and include compensation for medical bills accrued as a result of the medical injury. To receive compensatory damages, you and your attorney will have to provide the court with copies of medical bills as evidence of your expenses.

Another type of damages is non-economic damages. These compensate patients for less tangible costs, such as pain and suffering. In New Jersey, there are no caps placed on compensatory and non-economic damages.

The final type of damages are punitive damages. These are only awarded when the healthcare professional's actions are considered extraordinarily reckless. Oftentimes, to receive such damages, you and your attorney will have to show that the doctor's conduct was malicious or arose out of fraud. Punitive damages are meant to punish the medical provider for this reckless behavior.

Under New Jersey malpractice law, there is a cap placed on punitive damages. Specifically, a medical provider will not have to pay punitive damages that exceed either five times the compensatory damages or $350,000, depending on whichever is greater.