In New Jersey, victims of medical malpractice have two years from the date of the injury to file a lawsuit against the hospital. While this applies to most cases, there are exceptions to this rule that may extend or modify the timeframe for filing a claim. So, how important is it to adhere to the statute of limitations, and what are the exceptions? Here’s an overview of a statute of limitations, its purpose, and how it can be tolled or delayed in certain circumstances.

Why Meeting the Statute of Limitations for Hospital Negligence in New Jersey Is Crucial

When you believe you have a medical malpractice claim, it’s essential to make sure you start building your case immediately. Generally, missing the statute of limitations deadline may result in losing your right to seek compensation for any injuries suffered. In other words, the court may refuse to hear your case. Once you discover your injury, we recommend contacting an experienced medical malpractice attorney to consider your options.

Situations Where the Statute of Limitations Is Modified

While the statute of limitations is usually clear-cut, some situations have a modified deadline. These aren’t very common, but it’s crucial to know whether or not they apply to your situation. If you suspect your case falls under one of these modifications, we recommend contacting a hospital negligence lawyer.

1. The Injury Is Discovered Later

In general, courts in New Jersey follow the discovery rule, which means the statute of limitations doesn’t start until the plaintiff knows that the injury occurred. Typically, this happens in cases where a surgeon leaves a tool inside of someone or a doctor makes a misdiagnosis that leads to further complications. However, remember that the plaintiff must prove they couldn’t have reasonably known about their injury when it occurred. 

2. The Plaintiff Is a Minor or Mentally Incapacitated

According to New Jersey law, if the plaintiff is a minor, they have until they reach the age of majority before the statute of limitations starts. In New Jersey, the age of majority is 18 years old. This means that minor plaintiffs have until their 20th birthday to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Under this same statute, plaintiffs who have a mental disability that prevents them from understanding their rights or commencing a lawsuit also have extra time. In this situation, the clock doesn’t start until the plaintiff can understand their legal rights and file a lawsuit. 

3. The Negligent Act Resulted in a Birth Injury

New Jersey is one of the few states that has a statute of limitations specifically for minors who suffer birth injuries. Under this rule, parents have until the child’s 12th birthday to file a lawsuit against a negligent hospital or care provider. However, if the parents don’t file by that date, the minor child may file a lawsuit for their injury or designate someone over 18 to file on their behalf. 

Another Deadline to Consider: The Affidavit of Merit

So, how long do you have to sue a hospital for negligence—the statute of limitations and all? While the limitations themselves are part of the timeline, there is another deadline you need to consider. Immediately filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in New Jersey, plaintiffs must submit an affidavit of merit.

In summary, an affidavit of merit is a sworn statement provided by a qualified medical expert supporting a plaintiff's medical malpractice claim. It is an essential component of filing a lawsuit against a healthcare provider in New Jersey and serves to verify the validity of the plaintiff's allegations.

Under NJSA 2A:53A-27, plaintiffs have 60 days from the date of filing to submit any applicable affidavits of merit. The affidavit needs to be from a licensed physician who practices in the same area as the defendant and states that there is a reasonable possibility that the defendant didn’t provide the correct standard of care. Failure to comply with this requirement within the statute of limitations period may result in the dismissal of the lawsuit or other legal complications. However, a hospital negligence lawyer in New Jersey will help ensure you don’t miss this deadline. 

We Understand the Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Process Is Frustrating

Here at O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble, we understand how intimidating the medical malpractice claims process is. With complex rules and various time limits regarding hospital negligence in New Jersey, it’s difficult to know where to start. However, our team is well-equipped to guide you through the process. With a proven track record, including securing the largest medical malpractice verdict in the state, we know what it takes to build a strong medical malpractice case. To schedule a free consultation with one of our medical malpractice attorneys, fill out our contact form or call us today.

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