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What Is an Affidavit of Merit in a Medical Malpractice Claim?

August 2, 2021

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Being a victim of medical malpractice is traumatic, painful, and frustrating. Almost all injury victims who seek compensation face roadblocks, but medical malpractice victims face unique challenges.

First, they must prove that medical malpractice occurred, which can be extremely difficult, as medical providers and hospitals seldom admit fault. Second, they must collect evidence supporting their claim, which may not be readily available or even indicative of fault. And finally, they must submit an affidavit of merit, which summarizes the claim and is reviewed and signed by experts in the field—i.e., doctors and surgeons.

If you’ve never heard of an affidavit of merit, you’re not alone. Keep reading to learn all about this essential document that all Ohio medical malpractice claims need to move forward.

Why Are Affidavits of Merit Required in Ohio Medical Malpractice Claims?

There’s only so much time, resources, and space for civil lawsuits in Ohio. To ensure that only valid claims are heard in court, the state has certain requirements for filing lawsuits. Affidavits of merit are designed to cut down on frivolous or weak medical malpractice lawsuits by ensuring cases are reviewed by industry experts prior to litigation.

What Do Medical Experts Do When Creating Affidavits of Merit?

When medical malpractice victims and their lawyers seek to create affidavits of merit for their cases, they need medical professionals to review the facts of their claims and sign off on their validity. A valid affidavit of merit will include a doctor, surgeon, or other healthcare provider attesting that they:

  • Have reviewed all the plaintiff’s medical records
  • Understand the standards of care that the plaintiff should have received
  • Agree that the plaintiff did not receive the required standard of care
  • Believe that this failure to provide the standard of care resulted in harm to the plaintiff

Who Can Sign an Affidavit of Merit?

Ohio law states that people who sign affidavits of merit must be “qualified experts.” For medical malpractice claims, that typically means a practicing physician. However, just any physician can’t sign all affidavits of merit. Instead, they must be licensed to practice in the same or similar field of medicine as the field in which the malpractice occurred.

You May Need More than One Affidavit of Merit

Sometimes, medical malpractice occurs across the board in patient care. For example, a patient may receive substandard care when they were diagnosed, when they were treated, and when they were prescribed medication to treat their condition or symptoms.

In these cases, multiple affidavits of merit are required, as medical malpractice covers different specialties and therefore must be signed off on by qualified experts in each of those fields.

Can You File a Medical Malpractice Claim Without an Affidavit of Merit?

While you can attempt to file a medical malpractice claim without an affidavit of merit, not having one is considered grounds for dismissal by the court. However, moving forward with a claim without an affidavit of merit doesn’t bar you from moving forward later provided you obtain one.

Note, however, that with a few exceptions, you have only one year from the date that medical malpractice occurred to submit a claim, even if you previously filed a claim that was dismissed by the court. That’s why it’s important to ensure your claim has a valid affidavit of merit to begin with so that you don’t risk wasting time and money on the process.

What Happens if the Affidavit of Merit Isn’t Up to Par?

It’s possible to submit a medical malpractice claim with a valid and signed affidavit of merit, but have the claim rejected because the affidavit is considered deficient. If this happens, the dismissal will usually be “without prejudice,” which means you can address any deficiencies with the affidavit and resubmit your claim—provided you do so before the statute of limitations expires.

Don’t Sweat This Requirement—We’ve Got You Covered.

If you’re researching medical malpractice claims in Ohio, you may feel intimidated and even discouraged by the process due to how much evidence and documentation is required. But with a law firm like Nurenberg, Paris, Heller & McCarthy on your side, you don’t have to worry about the red tape, the paperwork, or the back and forth with the hospital and insurance company.

Our Ohio medical malpractice lawyers have years of experience building successful claims for people who were harmed by negligent providers, and we know what it takes to win them. If you or someone you love is dealing with a preventable illness or injury that was caused by failure to provide the standard of care, we want to help. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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