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Medical malpractice in New Jersey: liability and limitations

Malpractice is defined as a dereliction of professional duty or a professional's failure to skillfully render services, resulting in injury, damage or loss. This can include inadvertent doctor error or an improper, negligent act. Accountability can be sought from any health care professional who fails to maintain the standard of care in his or her field. There are certain New Jersey laws to be considered when seeking compensation in instances of alleged medical malpractice.

One of the most important rules is known as the statute of limitations (New Jersey Statutes 2A:14-2). Except in some specific instances, a lawsuit must commence within two years of the date of an alleged act of malpractice. For victims or survivors who suffer a loss they believe was caused by a problem with medical care, a knowledgeable, expert evaluation of all of the circumstances is step one. It's important to first be assured that legal options are appropriate. If they are, then proceeding in a timely manner is critical.

In New Jersey, an exception to this deadline would be if it isn't reasonable that a victim learned of the suspected malpractice injury within two years. Under what's known as the discovery rule, running of the statute of limitations begins when awareness of the potential for malpractice does. Other exceptions include a defendant's leaving of New Jersey after the alleged malpractice and if a victim has a mental disability or illness.

Pertaining to medical malpractice, the only cap to damages in New Jersey is that a punitive damages award has limits: $350,000 or five times a compensation award, whichever is greater.

When evaluating the facts of a potential case, it's necessary to carefully explore any contributing negligence on the part of a victim. A defendant may counter that some liability rests with the plaintiff. An example would be a claim that specific instructions weren't followed or medications properly taken. New Jersey rules allow for a jury award of damages to be reduced in proportion to the percentage of contributing negligence that applies.

Recourse for alleged medical malpractice is something to be considered no matter the degree of injury. Seeking financial compensation can help with physical and emotional recovery for victims and their families.

Source: New Jersey Legislature Statutes Database, "New Jersey Legislature Statutes Database" Aug. 20, 2014

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Gary D. Ginsberg is a Certified Civil Trial Lawyer who has been recognized as an expert in litigating cases in the courts of New Jersey.

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