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What is a certificate of merit in a West Virginia Medical Malpractice Case?

Before a medical malpractice lawsuit can be filed, the case must be reviewed for merit by a medical expert or, in some instances, several medical experts. This requirement is found in the West Virginia Medical Professional Liability Act found in West Virginia Code § 55-7B-1 and subsequent sections. West Virginia Code §55-7B-6(b) provides:

At least thirty days prior to the filing of a medical professional liability action against a health care provider, the claimant shall serve by certified mail, return receipt requested, a notice of claim on each health care provider the claimant will join in litigation. The notice of claim shall include a statement of the theory or theories of liability upon which a cause of action may be based, and a list of all health care providers and health care facilities to whom notices of claim are being sent, together with a screening certificate of merit. The screening certificate of merit shall be executed under oath by a health care provider qualified as an expert under the West Virginia rules of evidence and shall state with particularity: (1) The expert's familiarity with the applicable standard of care in issue; (2) the expert's qualifications; (3) the expert's opinion as to how the applicable standard of care was breached; and (4) the expert's opinion as to how the breach of the applicable standard of care resulted in injury or death. A separate screening certificate of merit must be provided for each health care provider against whom a claim is asserted. The person signing the screening certificate of merit shall have no financial interest in the underlying claim, but may participate as an expert witness in any judicial proceeding.

As a practical matter, a screening certificate of merit is required in almost every medical malpractice claim. Before a medical expert can review a particular claim, all of the person's relevant medical records must be gathered and forwarded to the expert for review. The process of gathering medical records, locating a suitable expert, and providing the expert time to review the records can sometimes be a lengthy process, and the time a claimant has to file a medical malpractice lawsuit is limited.

If you or a loved one has been injured as result of health professional malpractice, you don't have to stand alone. Contact one of the attorneys at Manchin Injury Law Group, PPLC, today.

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