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What is a medical malpractice screening certificate of merit?

When people in Charleston go to see a doctor, they expect that the doctor will properly diagnose any conditions that they might have, and prescribe appropriate medication and treatment. The same is true when a person needs to go to a hospital because of an illness or injury; they expect that the doctors and hospital staff will treat them in a way that will help them. However, things don't always work out the way that the patient expected.

When a patient suffers injury because a doctor or other health care provider did not meet the prevailing standard of care within the medical profession, the patient can pursue compensation under a medical malpractice cause of action. If the medical mistake results in a fatal accident, the victim's family can bring a wrongful death lawsuit. But how does the victim or their family prove that the doctor didn't treat the patient with the requisite standard of care?

Under West Virginia law, a person who files a medical malpractice claim must first send a screening certificate of merit to the health care providers that they intend to sue. The certificate is a document that a health care provider signs while under oath, and it states that provider's opinion as to how the treating medical professional's alleged missteps caused the injury or death at issue.

The health care provider who executes the screening certificate must be qualified as an expert under the West Virginia rules of evidence. Furthermore, the certificate itself must contain the details of how that expert believes the treating health care provider failed to uphold their duty of care to the injured patient.

A screening certificate is one of the many necessary steps in the process of taking legal action against a medical professional. An attorney who is experienced in wrongful death and medical malpractice cases can ensure that a person's legal claim follows all requirements under state law.

Source: West Virginia Code, "Medical Professional Liability," accessed on Aug. 9, 2016

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