Civil litigation founded in medical malpractice has its own unique substantive and procedural challenges. For example, medical negligence has a reduced statute of limitations in New York; it is 2 and a half years. Also, the defense is entitled to review the plaintiff patient’s medical records.
Experienced medical malpractice attorneys also know that courts require the plaintiff to produce expert testimony if he or she expects to successfully litigate a claim against a negligent medical professional. This is because courts are concerned with the knowledge of an ordinary juror.
Generally speaking, any time a jury is asked to deliberate on facts that are “beyond the ken” of an ordinary person, expert testimony will be required so that the jury can be properly aided in issuing a sound verdict. But it is an explicit court requirement in medical malpractice cases.
Since medical malpractice cases are so complex, many experts might be need so that the jury fully understands the facts. Since expert testimony is mandated for medical malpractice cases, any plaintiff who fails to prove medical malpractice with expert testimony will not succeed.
The plaintiff’s expert will testify as to the standard of care that the injured plaintiff should have received. This standard is established by the profession itself and will vary depending on locality and from specialty to specialty.
The plaintiff’s expert will also testify as to how that standard was breached; ultimately proving how another doctor under similar circumstances would not have committed the deviation that which was committed by the defendant doctor. Simply, another reasonable and prudent doctor would not have done what the defendant doctor did.
Additionally, the plaintiff’s medical expert will also testify as to how the deviation caused the injury that the plaintiff complains of. This expert will make the connection between the breach of care and the injury. This is done because medical malpractice negligence requires a showing that the breach proximately caused the patient’s injury.
Experts will also testify as to the level of injury, pain, suffering, and damages that the patient incurred. Sometimes, the complexity of a patient’s rehabilitation will require in depth expert testimony. Not only to help a jury understand the facts of rehabilitation, but also to understand the damages claimed by the plaintiff patient. This could require the use of additional medical experts as well as non-medical experts.
Therefore, before the conclusion of a medical malpractice case, the jury may have heard from a medical expert as to the standard of care and deviations; a physical therapist may have testified as to the extent of required treatment; and vocation therapists may testify as to the need for re-training.
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