In New Jersey, in order to maintain a professional malpractice lawsuit, a plaintiff must provide an “affidavit of merit” to the defendant after filing suit. The affidavit of merit statute in part requires that, in any action seeking damages “resulting from an alleged act of malpractice or negligence by a licensed person in his profession or occupation, the plaintiff shall … provide each defendant with an affidavit of an appropriate licensed person that there exists a reasonable probability that the care, skill or knowledge exercised or exhibited in the treatment, practice or work … fell outside acceptable professional or occupation standard or treatment practices”.
The affidavit of merit statute was adopted to protect professionals from frivolous claims. The professionals covered by the statute include accountants, architects, attorneys, dentists, engineers, physicians, podiatrists, chiropractors, registered professional nurses and health-care facilities. physical therapists, land surveyors, registered pharmacists, veterinarians, insurance providers, and certified midwives, certified professional midwives and certified nurse midwives.
The lawsuit may be dismissed if the plaintiff fails to serve the affidavit of merit on the defendant within 60 days of the defendant serving her Answer to the complaint. The plaintiff may request an extension of 60 days from the court to file the affidavit for good cause shown.
It is crucial that the plaintiff’s attorney identify an expert in the field in which the professional malpractice is claimed prior to filing suit, and to obtain the affidavit prior to filing suit. This will require that the relevant records be obtained and reviewed by the expert, who must be paid for his services in that regard. It is also crucial that a plaintiff with a claim against a licensed professional not wait until the eleventh hour to consult an attorney regarding a professional malpractice claim.
Also, most attorneys will not accept a malpractice claim unless the plaintiff has suffered an actual monetary loss or damage.
This law firm has represented many plaintiffs and defendants in professional liability cases.
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