New Jersey’s Malpractice Cap (and the Statute of Limitations)

We all put our faith in medical providers to give the best care they can. Even when they do, sometimes, things turn out poorly through no fault of theirs.

However, when medical professionals fail to make reasonable decisions, or miss things, or mistreat someone, the results can be very bad – deadly, in fact. That’s why failing to provide appropriate care, mistreatment, or otherwise committing medical negligence is grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Statutes of Limitations

In New Jersey, lawsuits must be brought within a certain period of time known as the statute of limitations. For medical malpractice actions, this means that a patient who is injured because of the negligence of a medical provider has only two years from the date of the injury to bring a lawsuit. Waiting too long means you have no recourse against the provider, even if his or her negligence was clear and unreasonable.

There are, however, a couple of notable exceptions to this rule. First, if the patient is a minor or medically incompetent, the action may be brought within two years of the patient reaching the age of majority or competency. Second, if the patient had no idea that he/she was harmed until after the period had passed, there is a “tolling” of the statute of limitations. This means the patient has two years from the point at which he or she knew (or should have known) of the existence of the injury to pursue legal action.

“Caps” on Recoveries

New Jersey is unusual in that it does not put a “cap” or limit on the amount of damages an injured patient can pursue. There are different types of damages that can be sought in a medical malpractice case:

  • Compensatory damages: These are designed to pay for bills or expenses the victim has due to the malpractice injury.
  • Noneconomic damages: These are damages related to the pain and suffering experienced by the patient, and other intangibles with no clear “money” value.
  • Punitive damages: These are damages awarded only if the medical provider’s care was unreasonably reckless. They are designed to punish the caregiver for the errors. NJ’s guidelines limit the total amount of these damages to the greater amount: either five times the compensatory damages, or $350,000.

If you or someone you care about suffered injuries because of a medical provider, call Blume Forte Fried Zerres & Molinari at (973) 635-5400. Our New Jersey medical malpractice attorneys have the experience to tackle these cases to court.

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