What to Expect in Your New Jersey Medical Malpractice Case
Skilled and compassionate injury attorneys representing victims of malpractice
If you or a loved one are a victim of malpractice, or are currently involved in a malpractice case, you may have many questions about the process. Although every case of medical negligence is different, we have collected some general information about what you may expect from your claim.
The medical malpractice attorneys at Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, LLP in New Jersey have combined decades of experience, and are committed to helping patients when they suffer harm due to the carelessness of medical professionals. Contact us today for assistance with your case.
What is medical malpractice?
Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor, health care professional, hospital, or other medical provider fails to meet the accepted standard of care in their medical community and causes harm to their patient – whether that harm be injury or wrongful death. This could be any improper action (or failure to act) on the part of the medical professional.
Standard of care means what a reasonable doctor would do with the same patient under the same or similar circumstances.
How do I know if malpractice occurred?
Your medical malpractice attorney can speak with you to determine whether or not you may have a claim. Typically, your lawyer will consult with medical experts in the same field of expertise as the doctor whom you're looking to bring a claim against. Our legal team is experienced and connected to professionals in the medical industry who can take an honest look at your case.
Someone in my family died a few days after surgery. Is this malpractice?
It's not necessarily malpractice when there is a negative outcome after a surgical procedure. Unfortunately, sometimes there are complications over which surgeons and medical professionals simply have no control. Patients typically sign a consent form before a procedure indicating they understand possible complications. However, there can be times when death during or following surgery is caused by negligence or malpractice. Your attorney can talk to you about your particular situation.
What if I think I'm a victim of medical malpractice?
If you believe you've been harmed due to medical malpractice, it's in your best interest to speak to a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. There are statutes of limitations on the time you have to bring a claim in NJ – typically two years – so you must act quickly to protect your rights. It's also a good idea to collect as many of your medical records as you can to bring to your legal consultation.
Do I really need a malpractice attorney?
Unequivocally yes. Technically, there is nothing legally preventing anyone from trying to negotiate a malpractice settlement alone. However, it is rarely in anyone's best interest to do so. Malpractice cases are complex, requiring an extensive knowledge of both legal and medical concepts and terms.
Insurance adjustors are also skilled at eliciting statements from patients to decrease the value of the case, and will investigate deeply to find anything they can use to discredit you. Many victims of malpractice are unaware that they are not required to sign any authorizations or give any recorded statements to insurance companies. By doing so, you could inadvertently give up your rights to compensation. We strongly recommend legal representation before even talking to any insurance company about a medical malpractice case.
What will a skilled New Jersey malpractice attorney cost?
You shouldn't have to worry about paying up front, out-of-pocket fees. Most medical malpractice attorneys work on what's called a contingency fee arrangement, which means that no payment is due until there is a settlement or jury award on your case. Payment is then collected from the award.
Medical malpractice lawyers who work under a contingency arrangement don't get paid if they don't win or settle the case. The contingency fee system protects people who otherwise wouldn't have the financial resources to pursue legal action for their injuries.
If I signed a consent form before my procedure, does that mean I can't recover damages in a malpractice claim against my doctor?
A consent form doesn't necessarily release a medical professional from liability for negligence. If you are able to prove that your doctor failed to provide the proper standard of care before, during, or after your procedure and it caused you harm, you may still have a malpractice claim.
How do you prove a medical malpractice case?
Your malpractice attorney must prove four elements for a successful claim:
- The standard of care that was owed by the physician.
- That the physician violated the duty of care.
- That the patient suffered an injury making him or her eligible for compensation.
- The injury was caused by the failure to provide adequate standard of care.
What damages can I claim in my malpractice case?
There are two types of damages that can be awarded in a medical malpractice case – compensatory and punitive. Compensatory damages include:
- Medical expenses, past and future.
- Loss of income, past and future.
- Pain and suffering.
- Loss of enjoyment of life.
- Loss of companionship and/or loss of family income (in cases of wrongful death).
New Jersey has no cap on compensatory damages for medical malpractice cases.
Punitive damages are less common, but are intended to punish the defendant for extremely reckless conduct or intent to cause harm. Their purpose is to make an example out of the defendant and deter similar behavior.
Will my case settle out of court?
The only answer to this question is “sometimes.” With most medical malpractice insurance policies, doctors have the right to decide whether or not to settle. However, when doctors settle a malpractice lawsuit, no matter how high or low the number, it's reported to a national database, and many doctors want to avoid tarnishing their reputations. In those cases, it's necessary to go to trial.
How long do medical malpractice cases take to resolve?
Again, it depends on the circumstances of the case. However, if it's a case that can be settled out of court, it's possible it can be resolved in less than a year. Typical malpractice cases, however, can take up to two years or more. The time it may take for a case depends on factors like the availability of expert witnesses, how backed up the courts are, and other variables.
Contact our trusted NJ medical malpractice attorneys today
Medical malpractice and negligence claims can be complex. The lawyers at Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, LLP in New Jersey are highly experienced in this area of law and are ready to take on your case. We can provide honest and reliable guidance for you or your loved ones. Call us at 732-777-0100 or fill out our contact form. We have offices in Edison, Red Bank, and Toms River.