How Does a Certificate of Merit Affect a Medical Malpractice Claim?

Medical malpractice cases in Illinois must be supported by a certificate of merit or they can be dismissed and the plaintiff denied recovery. Precise procedural guidelines must be carefully followed to ensure that the case moves forward.

Certificate of Merit Foundation

In Illinois, a plaintiff who is filing a medical malpractice claim is required to file a certificate of merit at the time of filing his or her lawsuit. An injury lawyer can explain that medical malpractice cases are often much more complicated than other types of cases, partially because of the complex intersection of medical and legal issues. They can also involve time-consuming trials and complicated testimony by medical experts. To ensure that the case has merit, this certificate must be filed to indicate that the plaintiff has grounds for the lawsuit and to limit the number of non-meritorious medical malpractice lawsuits.

Contents of Certificate of Merit

The certificate of merit must state that a medical professional has reviewed the case who is reasonably believed to meet the following criteria:

  • is knowledgeable about the particular medical issues relevant to the victim’s case
  • practices medicine or has practiced medicine within the last year
  • practices medicine in the same area of medicine involved in the victim’s case
  • is qualified based on experience or competence in the subject matter of the case
  • has found that there is a reasonable and meritorious cause for filing the lawsuit after reviewing the victim’s medical record and other evidence

The victim’s injury lawyer usually prepares the affidavit and must state under oath that the medical professional made these findings. Additionally, the attorney must swear that he or she personally believes that there is merit to the case. If the certificate of merit does not contain the proper information, the case can be dismissed.

Statute of Limitations

A certificate of merit can also impact the statute of limitations, the deadline by which a lawsuit must be filed. In Illinois, a plaintiff has two years from the date which the plaintiff knew or should have known of the injury incurred by the health care malpractice but never more than four years from the date of the injury to bring forth a medical malpractice claim. If the certificate of merit requirements are not fulfilled, the statute of limitations continues to run.

However, in some situations, the plaintiff can file the complaint when the statute of limitations is drawing near and declare that he or she did not have time to acquire the certificate of merit. In this situation, the certificate of merit must be filed within 90 days of filing the complaint.