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Liability in health care: NJ changes the rules

New Jersey lawmakers are looking for a way to better ensure needed health care professionals are available to help provide aid during the current coronavirus pandemic. Lawmakers voiced concern that some medical professionals were hesitant to volunteer to help out in hospitals in areas that needed additional assistance managing COVID-19 patients due to liability concerns. In an effort to encourage interested paramedics, doctors and others to join the fight against the virus, lawmakers recently proposed a bill that would relax legal liability.

Will the proposal become law?

Yes. Governor Phil Murphy recently signed the bill into law. Although signed just last week, it is retroactive to March 9, 2020.

What type of eased liability does the law provide?

The law provides expanded immunity in the following situations:

· Scope. The law expands immunity to allow physicians who are interested in helping in intensive care units and other areas that need assistance. Generally, a specific medical license is required to cover these areas. Language within the law relaxes this requirement. This should reduce the risk of a medical malpractice lawsuit or medical license investigation for physicians who specialize in other areas that offer help in the emergency department or intensive care units.

· Location. It can also provide temporary reciprocity for health care professionals licensed to practice in other states, as long as they are in good standing.

· Technology. Language is also present that expands protection to those who are either fighting the virus or working to stop its spread through the use of telemedicine practices.

There are some exceptions to the rule. For example, the law does not extend to provide protection to include outright acts of recklessness or negligence.