Medical malpractice claims have (often unfairly) gotten a lot of bad press. That’s caused a number of states — including New York — to enact strict rules that are designed to weed out frivolous claims.
One of those rules is the requirement for a “certificate of merit” to be filed within 90 days of a lawsuit before a claim can move forward.
What’s a certificate of merit?
A certificate of merit is basically a document that says the lawyer who has taken the plaintiff’s case has consulted with at least one physician, and they genuinely believe that the plaintiff’s claim is valid.
Alternatively, the certificate can state that the lawyer has made three good-faith attempts to obtain a consultation with a licensed physician about the issue and has been unable to do so.
Are there any exceptions?
Like most things in the law, there are exceptions here, too. You aren’t required to have one if you intend to represent yourself in court (although that’s generally a very poor idea). You also aren’t required to have one when there’s no need for expert testimony about the malpractice. For example, if a surgeon amputated the wrong foot on a patient, that’s not usually something that would require an expert’s testimony.
Does a certificate of merit make your case any easier?
Not really. It’s best to view this as a legal “hoop that you have to jump” as part of the claims process — and there are more to follow. There’s no substitution for experienced guidance from the beginning of your malpractice claim.