In almost every medical malpractice lawsuit an expert witness is necessary. Most lay persons cannot ascertain and comprehend the complex facts and issues that are involved in medical malpractice cases. These complexities make the determination of whether a doctor or medical professional should be held accountable for causing a patient’s injury difficult.
In all medical malpractice cases there are two major issues a medical expert witness tries to explain to the trier of fact. The first issue is whether the doctor or medical professional adhered to the same standard of care for professionals in the same field. The second issue is whether the inability of the doctor or medical professional to adhere to the standard of care caused the injury suffered by the patient.
The standard of care is what a normal, average, competent doctor or medical professional would have done in a situation similar to the one in question. The medical expert gives a definition of the standard of care and then gives testimony in order to help the trier of fact make a determination. The expert witness will then offer an opinion as to whether the defendant doctor or medical professional acted in accordance with the standard of care applicable in the case. Expert witness use publications, guidelines, journals, textbooks, and other similar materials to prepare their opinions.
If a judge finds a medical professional’s expert testimony lacking, the case could be dismissed or decided on summary judgment early. If the case is of a technical nature, then a medical expert witness is needed to sort through the complicated facts, issues, and materials that the trier of fact needs to have some understanding, so a determination can be made in the lawsuit. While the trier of fact does not have to believe the opinions of an expert witness, they will often use the expert’s opinions to sort through the facts.
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