What does it mean if a court dismisses a case without prejudice?

Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I filed a malpractice case and the judge dismissed it without prejudice. Can you tell me what this means and how this affects my case going forward?”

What is a malpractice case?

A malpractice case is a civil claim that is brought against a defendant or an alleged offender who has been accused of committing a civil wrong. If the injured party is able to prove the defendant injured them they may be entitled to compensation for their pain and suffering, injuries or property loss.

A civil malpractice case differs from a criminal case. For example, a civil case simply allows compensation for the injury whereas a criminal case allows the state to file criminal charges against the defendant and assess penalties such as fines and jail time if they are convicted of the criminal charge.

Common malpractice cases

Now, you did not specifically mention what type of malpractice case you filed, although the most common malpractice cases are medical malpractice claims filed against doctors, hospitals, nurses or other medical professionals who committed a negligent action which injured a patient.

Other malpractice claims, however, can include a legal malpractice claim against an attorney who failed to provide competent legal representation, which resulted in a breach of the duty which led to a client’s financial loss or a financial malpractice case against an investment professional or advisor who committed malpractice by mishandling a client’s money or by committing outright fraud (which could also result in a criminal case filed by the state).

Regardless of the type of malpractice claim, however, the court can dismiss a case with or without prejudice. So let’s take a look at what each of those rulings could mean for your malpractice case.

Civil case dismissed with prejudice

Cases dismissed with prejudice are quite common in civil cases. If the court rules to dismiss the case with prejudice it simply means the case is over and you do not have the right to file the case again. Although there are a variety of reasons the court may rule this way, it generally means the court believes the case to be frivolous and it should never have been filed.

If your case was dismissed with prejudice it means that although you filed a case because you thought the defendant had breached their duty of care towards you and your injuries were caused by this breach, the court disagreed and is now refusing to hear the case and also barring you from filing it again.

Civil case dismissed without prejudice

If, on the other hand, your civil malpractice case was dismissed without prejudice this generally means they do not believe you have sufficient evidence to prove your case at this time. Unlike a case that was dismissed with prejudice, however, dismissed without prejudice may allow you to collect more evidence and re-file your case a second time.

If you are considering re-filing your case, however, you need to talk to a malpractice lawyer who is familiar with your state’s laws, specifically, the laws regarding the amount of time you have to file a malpractice claim. If you wait too long to re-file your case the statute of limitations may expire and you may not be entitled to any compensation.

Bottom Line:

If your malpractice case was dismissed without prejudice you may have the right to gather additional evidence and re-file your case. Talk to a personal injury lawyer for more information.

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