The Role of Expert Witnesses in Hospital Bedsores Lawsuits
The Role of Expert Witnesses in Hospital Bedsores Lawsuits
Expert witnesses could provide courts with insightful and compelling presentations concerning medical malpractice related to patient bedsores. Federal and state guidelines, however, outline strict requirements regarding who may serve as a medical witness. Before initiating a lawsuit, an experienced bedsores attorney will review your case and determine which healthcare experts could validate your claims. Presenting the court with the clearest possible understanding of the relevant bedsore issues could result in a more favorable outcome.
Consulting Experts and Testifying Experts
Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedures, expert witnesses can either act as non-testifying consultants, or they could testify during trials, but the roles cannot be combined. You may, however, retain a consulting expert to prepare a medical malpractice complaint before submitting it to the court. You may also consult with experts during the pre-trial discovery phase to form potential responses to a defendant’s claims. A consulting expert’s professional insights may remain confidential within your legal team.
You may use non-testifying expert witnesses to:
- Corroborate on bedsore stages and injuries: Pressure ulcers fall into one of four stages when diagnosed. Experts can examine bedsores to diagnose them or identify during which stage bedsores became problematic and how they caused severe health issues.
- Review medical conditions or procedures: Illnesses, injuries or surgeries could leave patients bedridden. By reviewing medical records, consulting experts can offer details on when bedsores first developed and whether a facility’s staff should have treated or prevented them.
- Perform diagnostic tests or seek second opinions: When making mistakes or errors, some healthcare practitioners may attempt to evade responsibility by claiming “nothing happened.” Experts, however, can offer guidance on which doctors could provide second opinions and which diagnostic exams could confirm the existence of bedsore injuries.
Unlike consulting experts, testifying experts may offer their depositions if asked by the court or they could speak to the jury. They may also write reports and offer professional opinions for use during the pre-trial discovery process.
Legal Guidelines Covering Expert Witness Selection
FRCP Rule 702 allows qualified experts with relevant education, training and professional experience to testify or offer opinions. During a pre-trial hearing, parties to the lawsuit may introduce who they plan on using for their testimonies. The court may approve of an expert witness when an attorney can demonstrate that the expert:
- Has specialized scientific or technical knowledge to clearly discuss the evidence with the jury: Expert testimonies, for example, must relate specifically to the bedsore injuries and complications filed in the complaint.
- Can provide witness testimony based on substantial data or facts: Statements made by experts must be backed up with valid and tested medical theories. The court, for instance, may not approve of “hearsay” diseases that cause bedsore infections.
- Follows reliable medical principles and methods in practice: The court may ask for verification that an expert witness has already applied their methods and practices as they are described in each complaint. Articles written by an expert witness and published in a medical journal, for example, may demonstrate how an expert treated or prevented pressure ulcer diseases.
Federal rules generally concern lawsuits filed in federal district courts. If a corporation situated outside of Florida owns the facility that you’re suing, your complaint may become a federal case. If a hospital or nursing home is local, however, the Florida Evidence Code applies. Florida law requires that expert bedsore witnesses specialize in the health complications caused by pressure ulcers or medical malpractice that occurs in hospitals and nursing homes.
The Benefits of Using Expert Witnesses in Bedsore Lawsuits
Most jury members do not have the knowledge and experience that expert witnesses have. Through their testimonies, expert witnesses can take complex medical issues and break them down into clear and concise language.
Expert witnesses could provide impartial information so that jurors base their decisions on facts instead of their personal biases. Average jurists without medical backgrounds, for example, can go beyond “just seeing” the evidence; expert witnesses could better convey the severity of the pain and injuries. In some cases, overly confident defendants may speak in medical jargon and confuse jurors; expert witnesses, however, could clarify their statements and add a greater degree of credibility to your claim.
Because bedsores are preventable, expert witnesses could explain how a hospital failed to uphold their standard duty of care. An expert’s testimony can explain:
- Standards imposed by the state and federal government to prevent bedsores: nurses and staff owe a duty to “turn” bedridden patients regularly or as their doctors prescribed.
- Employment laws relating to understaffed nursing homes: Florida’s statutes require having one certified nurse on staff for each 20 residents.
- Risks of bedsore complications for patients with certain medical conditions: Patients with dementia, for example, may require additional care by a staff member to avoid pressure ulcers.
When presented with clear and evident facts, juries can review cases and make decisions based on reliable and understandable information. Through a more informed decision-making process, the court may approve an objective and reasonable financial award.
Experts Can Explain How Carelessness Leads to Injuries or Death
The role of an expert witness is to provide juries with relevant information such as when bedsores began to develop. Do medical records note any patient complaints of pain, itching or pus? Was there extended time spent immobile or bedridden? Certain medications could reveal if a patient needed treatment for pressure ulcers, and an expert witness would know if a doctor prescribed it.
Severe complications from bedsores could develop because of negligence on the part of the facility’s staff. Continued pressure on the skin covering the boniest areas of the human body leads to swelling, pain and discoloration. Without treatment, the resulting bedsores could become infected and cause life-threatening medical conditions such as sepsis and kidney failure.
Defendants may attempt to counter a plaintiff’s claims by alleging that the injuries were pre-existing conditions and not related to the facility’s carelessness. Expert witnesses, however, could counter a defendant’s claims by explaining the causes of bedsore complications such as:
- Severe tissue damage: Untreated pressure ulcers that appear crater-like indicate that the bedsores have affected tissues underneath the skin. Untreated bed sores wear down the underlying tissues, and a lack of blood flow eventually causes them to die.
- Life-threatening infections: Unhealed and open wounds leave patients with irritating scabs and constant itching. Bacteria can enter the body and cause life-threatening infections that require intensive medical treatment or amputation to avoid death.
- Stage four bedsore signs: Patients who have red blisters, visible tissues or noticeable bones around their bedsores, show symptoms of serious neglect. An expert witness can describe how falling below basic and minimal healthcare standards led to stage four pressure ulcer injuries.
Inpatient medical facilities often have legal experts advising them on absolving fault. After filing your complaint, you may need a strong and experienced legal team to prove to the court that a facility’s counterclaims lack merit. Expert medical testimony serves as a way to educate jurors on the treatments or procedures that a facility’s staff should have provided to avoid harm.
Let Expert Witnesses and an Experienced Bedsores Attorney Assert Your Claims
Consultations with experts and their testimonies could help to back up your claims and present a stronger legal case. Bedsores lawsuits may result in substantial financial awards and hold hospitals accountable for the harm they caused. Contact one of our experienced bedsore attorneys at the law offices of Gordon & Partners for a free consultation and learn more about how an expert witness could help justify your claim.
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