IT'S ALL FREE! Anatomy of an Affidavit

Whether you're an independent, expert or in-house legal nurse consultant, at some time you could be asked to review, sign, or draft an affidavit or its counterpart, a certificate of merit. You may live in a state that doesn't need an expert affidavit or certificate of merit to proceed with a medical malpractice lawsuit. But you could certainly work for an attorney in a state that has this requirement.

The easiest way to learn how to write an affidavit is to view one to see how it's written. The sample affidavit was written by a nurse expert for a Florida wound care case (with all the names changed, of course). Let's look at how the affidavit is structured.

The TITLE outlines the type of document and identifies the name and educational degrees of the author of the document, the expert. The sample affidavit was used in Presuit. If the case was in litigation, information about the  case and the court would precede the title.

The QUALIFICATIONS sections lists the educational background of the expert and any pertinent certifications. This section also refers to the expert's CV and active involvement in the field of expertise. Many states  require that an expert must have current work experience or teach in their field of expertise.

The affidavit refers to the specific STATUTE by its name and number. This statute  outlines expert qualifications that must be met.

The next section details the medical RECORDS that were REVIEWED by the expert. The records are listed with dates of service. These are the records that the expert relied upon to make an opinion.

The expert outlines the FACTS that form the basis of his or her opinion.

The expert states his or her OPINION that the facts support or refute  a claim of medical malpractice.

The expert elaborates that not only was the standard of care not met, the patient suffered DAMAGES which were CAUSED by the health care provider's deviation in the standard of care.

The expert notes that his or her opinion has never been DISQUALIFIED in court.

The expert CERTIFIES that he or she has never been found guilty of fraud or perjury and that the expert has read and verified the truthfulness of the affidavit.

This affidavit uses the term FURTHER AFFIANT SAYETH NAUGHT which is archaic legal language meaning the expert (the affiant) has nothing more to say on the subject.

In the presence of a NOTARY PUBLIC, the expert signs the affidavit. Signing in the presence of a notary public means that the expert affirms or swears that the information is truthful.

And that's the anatomy of an affidavit, at least in Florida. If you're unsure of state statutes on this requirement, the National Conference of State Legislatures has a comprehensive list of medical liability and medical malpractice laws by state. Or you could ask your attorney for an affidavit or certificate of merit that's been drafted in the past to use as a guide.

...Katy Jones