What Are Expert Witnesses in Medical Malpractice Cases?

If you believe you are the victim of medical malpractice, then you may be considering filing some sort of lawsuit. If so, then the chances are good that you or your attorney will be looking into obtaining the services of an expert witness. An expert witness provides testimony that makes technical issues easier to understand for non-experts in that field.

Is an Expert Necessary?

When it concerns medical malpractice cases, some states require an expert to provide an affidavit that a suit has merit before it can be brought to court. When malpractice seems obvious, such as the removal of the wrong limb or a surgical instrument left inside a patient, expert testimony might not be necessary.

However, other cases might be more challenging to prove. Medical malpractice cases due to birth injuries might be one example. They may require more specialized law services, such as those a cerebral palsy lawyer might be able to provide, in addition to expert witnesses.

What are the Expectations?

In the case of medical malpractice lawsuits, there are certain expectations of expert witnesses. Not every expert witness must be a practicing physician. He or she should have some familiarity and certification in the field in which they’re being asked to testify.

This would allow for testimony from someone who is a professor teaching courses in a related area. However, some states require that experts have recent practical experience in their field of expertise. This is to prevent expert witnesses who make an entire career of testifying without having actual experience as a practicing physician.

What does the Expert do?

Expert witnesses in medical malpractice cases are often asked to look at multiple aspects of the case. They must examine highly technical information and be able to explain it in a way that jurors and other non-medical personnel can understand.

Also, the expert witness should be able to listen to the testimony of other witnesses and use the expertise to evaluate what it means. Their evidence is necessary to many cases because, without it, a judge might decide a situation is too technical for a jury to be able to determine. How much value jurors give to an expert’s opinion is up to the jurors.

The expert witness is typically asked to address two significant aspects of the case. The first is whether the doctor violated the standards of care for a procedure. The standard of care is what a doctor would be reasonably expected to do in a specific situation.

Since there are no specific rules doctors must follow, the expert witness provides an opinion and then backs it up with medical research or other examples. The second piece the expert addresses is whether the patient’s injury or death was a direct result of the doctor not providing an acceptable standard of care.

Although there are cases where wrongdoing seems obvious, experts say not to assume anything. It is better to have an expert witness available and not need their services than to need an expert that you have not taken the time to locate ahead of time. The chances are good that the defendant in the case will have an expert of their own.

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