What Is a Certificate of Merit in a Florida Medical Malpractice Case?

A medical malpractice claim arises when your healthcare provider (a doctor, a hospital, or other healthcare provider) harms you through medical negligence. When this happens, you can file a lawsuit against your healthcare provider seeking monetary damages. 

Although medical malpractice cases work a lot like other types of negligence cases, there are several key differences. In Florida, one of those differences is the Certificate of Merit requirement.

To win a medical malpractice claim, you must prove the following facts:

  • Duty of Care: To establish an elevated, professional duty of care, you must prove the existence of a doctor-patient relationship. You must also prove the nature of your healthcare provider’s duty under the specific circumstances of your claim.
  • Breach of duty: You must prove that the defendant’s conduct amounted to medical negligence—a failure to meet the minimum professional standard of care. 
  • Damages: You must prove you suffered harm, and you must prove the magnitude of that harm.
  • Causation: You must prove that your healthcare provider’s breach of duty was the direct and foreseeable cause of the harm that you suffered.

You will probably need expert testimony to prove at least the first two elements. 

Procedural Requirements

Filing a medical malpractice lawsuit requires you to complete the following steps:

  • Conduct a pre-lawsuit investigation: Florida law requires this. You must gather medical records and obtain a Certificate of Merit—a medical expert’s affidavit confirming your claim’s merit.
  • Send a Notice of Intent to Sue to the potential defendant, including the Certificate of Merit. The defendant has 90 days to negotiate and to investigate your claim.
  • Wait for the defendant’s response– a settlement offer, a denial of your claim, or a request for more information.
  • You must participate in mediation if you haven’t settled your claim within the 90-day period.

Take the following actions to file a lawsuit:

  • File a formal complaint detailing your allegations against the defendant and specifying the damages you seek. You must attach your Certificate of Merit to the complaint.
  • Pay the appropriate filing fees.
  • Formally deliver the complaint to the defendant(s), ensuring they are officially notified of the lawsuit (service of process).

Once you have completed these steps, you have formally filed a lawsuit, and you have beaten Florida’s two-year statute of limitations deadline. You might end up at trial, but the odds are you will settle your claim sometime between filing a lawsuit and trial.

The Requirements for a Certificate of Merit

Your Certificate of Merit must comply with the following guidelines:

  • A medical professional must draft and sign it. They must qualify as an expert under Florida law. Typically, this means they must be a doctor practicing in the same field as the defendant. If the defendant is a cardiologist, for example, your expert should also be a cardiologist.
  • Your Certificate of Merit must assert reasonable grounds for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit.

The Certificate of Merit must be attached to your complaint when you file it with the court. If it isn’t, the court will dismiss your lawsuit.

Why Florida Requires a Certificate of Merit

Florida isn’t the only jurisdiction that requires a Certificate of Merit or something similar; most states do. Healthcare providers tend to be wealthy and well-insured, making them convenient targets for frivolous lawsuits by unethical lawyers. An avalanche of frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits could cripple the medical profession or drive up the price of healthcare to unacceptable levels.

The Assistance of a South Florida Medical Malpractice Attorney is Essential

Medical malpractice claims are not easy to win, especially in Florida. They tend to be scientifically complex, and the use of expert witnesses is the rule, not the exception. They can be well worth the effort, but you have to do it right. 

One of the most important ways to “do it right” is to hire an experienced South Florida medical malpractice lawyer. Never forget that under the contingency fee system, you don’t pay legal fees unless you win.

Contact Our Personal Injury Law Firm in South Florida

If you’ve been injured in an accident, please contact our experienced personal injury lawyers in Florida at Hollander Law Firm Accident Injury Lawyers to schedule a free consultation today. We have three convenient locations in Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach.

We proudly serve Palm Beach County, Broward County, and its surrounding areas:

Hollander Law Firm Accident Injury Lawyers – Boca Raton Law Office
7000 W Palmetto Park Rd #500
Boca Raton, FL 33433
(561) 347-7770

Hollander Law Firm Accident Injury Lawyers – Fort Lauderdale Law Office
200 S.E. 6th Street #203
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
(954) 287-0566

Hollander Law Firm Accident Injury Lawyers – West Palm Beach Law Office
319 Clematis St #203
West Palm Beach, FL 33401
(561) 556-7873