Most personal injury claims proceed in a fairly straightforward manner: Someone believes they have been wronged and that wrong has caused an injury, so they contact an attorney about their case. Once an attorney accepts the case, they’ll try to negotiate a settlement with the other party. If that fails, they’ll move forward with a lawsuit.
That’s not quite how medical malpractice claims work, however. Before you can file a medical malpractice claim in Missouri, you need an “affidavit of merit.”
What’s an affidavit of merit?
Essentially, this is a qualified opinion from another health care provider saying that they believe the defendant in failed to exercise “reasonably prudent” care and that their failure to do so either caused or contributed to your injuries.
The medical provider who writes your affidavit of merit must be:
- Licensed in Missouri or another state
- Either in active practice or within five years of retirement
- In the same profession or substantially the same specialty as the defendant
The affidavit must be filed within 90 days of a medical malpractice complaint.
What’s the purpose of the affidavit?
That answer may depend on the person you ask. Medical malpractice claims are expensive, and they can tie up the court for a while. Making certain that a case has merit via a “second opinion” from another doctor can make it easier to weed out frivolous claims. An affidavit of merit can also discourage people from pursuing valid claims because they think that it will be impossible to find one doctor willing to make statements against another.
If you think you may have a medical malpractice claim, don’t hesitate to seek experienced legal assistance. This is not something you can sort out on your own.