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Medical Malpractice: What is a Certificate of Merit?

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If you find yourself in a medical malpractice lawsuit, you will most likely be required to submit what is called a Certificate of Merit. This report may also be referred to as an Affidavit of Merit or Offer of Proof. Many states have enacted this portion of the process in an attempt to reduce the number of illegitimate medical malpractice cases.

What does the Certificate contain?

The Certificate of Merit comes from a qualified physician and states that they have reviewed the plaintiff’s medical records and that, in their opinion, the defendant(s) were negligent in treating the plaintiff. Some states have strict requirements on who the physician who prepares the Certificate of Merit can be. Depending on the state, the physicians may be required to have specific qualifications or licenses. The report will contain:

  • An identification of all the medical records reviewed
  • An explanation of the applicable medical standard of care that the defendant should have followed
  • An opinion that the defendant failed to follow the applicable standard of care
  • An opinion that the defendant’s negligence was the cause of the plaintiff’s injury
  • The physician’s reasoning

When is the Certificate filed?

Some states require that the plaintiff’s attorney file the Certificate of Merit along with the formal complaint in cases of medical negligence. Others require it to be filed before the complaint and in other cases, the state may allow the Certificate to be filed after the complaint. However, if it is allowed to be filed after the complaint, there is usually a time limit after filing the complaint.

What if the Certificate is rejected?

If the Certificate of Merit is rejected, the next steps allowed vary from state to state. In some states, that is the end of the case and the plaintiff must amend or appeal the Certificate in order to go any further with the case. In other states, the plaintiff can still proceed with the lawsuit, but must post a bond to cover the defendant’s court costs.

Medical malpractice cases are lengthy and difficult to pursue.If you believe that you or a loved one has been injured due to medical malpractice, such as a misdiagnosis malpractice claim, call The Cochran Firm Philadelphia today to discuss your options. The first consultation is always free.