When Do I Need An Affidavit of Merit or Expert Affidavit
Published in medical malpractice on December 21, 2016.
Medical malpractice cases in Georgia and throughout the country are complex and demand a lot from a plaintiff. A plaintiff’s burden of proof in medical malpractice cases is typically greater than in other personal injury claims, since the plaintiff is up against an established healthcare professional or facility.
Medical malpractice plaintiffs are also under greater pressure to prove their cases due to the high number of frivolous lawsuits. Many states, Georgia included, have compensation damage caps and other stipulations to discourage people from filing false or unnecessary medical malpractice claims. Another measure that some states require is for a plaintiff to file an Affidavit of Merit with any medical malpractice claims.
Tort Reform and the Affidavit of Merit
In the face of too much litigation in America, lawmakers have begun to initiate tort reforms. Many organizations have concerns that people are filing too many frivolous lawsuits, defendants are paying too much money to settle questionable claims, and that people are making too many decisions based on fear of liability. Several states have enacted tort reform laws in the hope of reducing the number of unnecessary lawsuits. One such tort reform in Georgia is the Affidavit of Merit.
An Affidavit of Merit is a document a medical expert must sign stating that he or she has reviewed your case and believes it has merit. The Georgia courts now require a signed Affidavit of Merit before it will consider allowing a plaintiff to bring a claim. The medical expert should specialize in the same field the defendant practices, such as optometry or orthopedics.
The expert must be of the professional opinion that your case has merit, or grounds for a potential lawsuit. Instead of speaking from an attorney’s point of view, however, the medical expert will sign the document after deciding the healthcare professional or institution fell short of appropriate standards of care under the circumstances. Obtaining a medical perspective on your case shows the court system that your claim isn’t frivolous or unfounded – thus, saving the courts time and money.
About Affidavits of Merit (“Expert Affidavit”) in Georgia
If you intend to file a medical malpractice claim in Georgia, you must file an Affidavit of Merit or “Expert Affidavit” with your court claim. Georgia Code Title 9-11-9.1 requires an “Expert” from the field of study to set forth by affidavit in specificity what negligent acts or omissions of the other party, as well as the “factual basis” that form the basis of the claim. You do not necessarily have to submit the affidavit at the same time as your claim – you have a certain window to file the affidavit after your initial complaint, depending on the circumstances. The Code states that if a plaintiff is too close to the statute of limitations expiration date to have time to prepare the affidavit, the plaintiff will have 45 days after the complaint filing to submit the affidavit.
If you fail to file the Affidavit of Merit along with your medical malpractice claim, the courts may dismiss your lawsuit. The affidavit is a legal requirement in Georgia, not an optional submission. You may or may not have time to secure an affidavit – or show why you could not secure one – after filing your claim. It’s generally best practice to file both documents at the same time to avoid the risk of case dismissal.
The Affidavit of Merit is just another hoop a plaintiff must jump through if he or she wants to bring a medical malpractice claim in Georgia. For professional legal help filing a medical malpractice claim and Affidavit of Merit in Macon and throughout Georgia, contact a personal injury attorney. Your attorney should have prior experience in helping clients meet with the proper medical experts for their cases and in filing Affidavits of Merit with the Georgia civil courts.