The Importance of an Expert Witness in a Medical Malpractice Case

John Fisher
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Stopping Medical Injustice

The testimony of medical experts is required in almost all medical malpractice cases.  Non-doctors are usually unable to determine whether the patient’s doctor should be liable for the injury to the patient due to the complex nature of the facts of medical malpractice cases. 

 

Why is the testimony of a medical expert needed?

 

Medical expert testimony is required in almost all medical malpractice cases.  If the testimony is not presented, the judge will often dismiss the case or make an early decision.  Courts have decided that given the technical information the jury must consider in medical malpractice cases, it is too complicated for them to sort through it without help.  Therefore it is essential that a plaintiff find an expert to testify early.  However, medical experts are not usually cheap or easy to find.

 

The testimony

 

Medical experts address the two central questions to any medical malpractice case:

 

  • Did the doctor in this case follow the standard of care for doctors in the same position?
  • Did the patient’s injury result from the doctor’s failure to follow the standard of care?

 

Part of the medical expert’s testimony will be about what a normal, competent doctor would have done in the same situation that is at issue in the case.  Then the expert will give an opinion as to whether the doctor who is being sued lived up to that standard of care.  Since there are not any hard and fast rules about any given field’s standard of care, the expert may then use evidence, such as medical publications or medical board guidelines. 

 

The expert must also testify as to whether the failure of the doctor to live up to the standard of care caused the patient to be injured.  A variety of factors often come into play in any medical situation.  Therefore the incompetence of the doctor may not have been the direct cause of the negative outcome.  Since this is the case, the expert must explain to the jury the likelihood of whether the incompetence of the doctor was the actual cause of the patient’s injury.

 

When should a plaintiff hire a medical expert?

 

Prior to the start of the trial, both the plaintiff and the defendant must have experts.  They must also disclose to the court the substance of their testimony.  Failure on the part of either side means that the court will decide the case in the other party’s favor prior to the start of the trial.  The exception to this is if the case falls into a category that does not require the opinion of an expert, or when the case is “obvious”.  An expert witness is not necessary when:

 

  • The doctor or medical staff where the only ones in control over whatever cause the injury; and
  • The injury could only have resulted from the failure of the doctor to adhere to the normal standard of care.

 

However, it may be beneficial to have an expert waiting in case it is found that the case was not obvious.

 

If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of the negligence of a medical professional, contact an experienced Kingston, New York medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible to evaluate your case.

 

But what do you think?  I would love to hear from you!  Leave a comment or I also welcome your phone call on my toll-free cell at 1-866-889-6882 or you can drop me an e-mail at [email protected]  You are always welcome to request my FREE book, The Seven Deadly Mistakes of Malpractice Victims, at the home page of my website at www.protectingpatientrights.com

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