The affidavit of merit requirement in med mal cases

As is the case in other states, Missouri has in recent years passed several laws that are supposedly designed to reduce abuse litigation against hospitals and doctors and, allegedly, reduce medical costs.

The flip side of these legal requirements is that they add extra obstacles and burdens to a victim’s already difficult task of trying to get compensation from a doctor who is usually backed by powerful resources and interests, including the doctor’s medical malpractice insurance carrier.

One such requirement is that a patient, before filing a case of negligence against a doctor, has to submit a sworn statement saying that he or she has an expert opinion from a qualified and practicing physician that says the doctor in question was negligent. Not filing such a statement will result in the dismissal of the patient’s case, although the patient will have permission to re-file once a statement is submitted.

Moreover, a defendant doctor is allowed to ask to review the expert’s opinion and, under certain circumstances challenge it. If it turns out the opinion does not meet the legal requirements and it is unlikely some other doctor would be able to step up to give the same opinion, then the judge will both dismiss the patient’s case and charge the patient the doctor’s attorney fees and costs.

The requirement to file a proper affidavit of merit is just one of many reasons why an injured patient in the Kansas City area will want to consider getting the assistance of an experienced medical malpractice attorney when pursuing their claims for compensation.