Using Expert Witnesses to Help Prove Negligence in Medical Malpractice Cases
Posted on behalf of Gordon & Partners on Jul 23, 2019 in Medical Malpractice
In nearly every medical malpractice case, the victim will need to hire an expert witness who can explain what went wrong. Non-doctors may not be qualified to make these determinations, so a qualified medical expert may have to provide complex testimony regarding how the health care provider defendant was negligent and why he or she should be held liable for the resulting injury.
The experienced West Palm Beach medical malpractice lawyers at our firm often work closely with medical experts and can explain their role in your case and the benefit of using them.
Qualifications to Be a Medical Expert
A medical expert must typically be someone who is currently practicing or teaching medicine or has recently retired from the profession. In some cases, it is preferable to have a medical expert who has a similar background and experience to the health care provider who is named as a defendant in the case. Expert witnesses usually qualify in this way by a combination of academic and professional experience.
Benefits of Medical Expert Testimony
While the jury does not have to accept everything that the expert witness says, expert witness testimony is often useful in helping juries understand complex information. Additionally, medical expert testimony is often required in medical malpractice cases. The defendant may have his or her own expert witness, so when the plaintiff also has an expert witness, this can level the playing field.
Expert witnesses are often persuasive in their testimony and can help make a jury lean in one direction. Having an expert witness testify on behalf of the plaintiff can add credibility to the patient’s claim since a medical expert supports the claim.
In some cases, having a medical expert can help avoid a case having to go to trial at all since the defendant will have a better sense of the weight of the evidence and the strength of the case.
How Medical Expert Testimony Is Necessary to Prove Negligence
Medical expert testimony is necessary to prove two essential elements. These include the following:
Standard of Care
The first element of a medical malpractice case that a plaintiff must establish is the duty of care that the doctor owed the patient. This is demonstrated through medical expert testimony about the standard of care for the same type of doctor in the same geographic region and specialty. The expert witness testifies about what a competent doctor would have done under the same circumstances if following the proper standard of care.
The medical expert might discuss the medical issues that would have been at play and what diagnostic tests would have been used. He or she might also explain the course of treatment that would have likely been chosen if the doctor complied with the standard of care.
Breach of Standard of Care
The second element of a medical expert’s testimony is how the defendant health care provider breached the standard of care. The medical expert might testify about how the doctor’s failure to follow the standard of care injured the patient.
For example, the medical expert might discuss that the health care provider failed to order the appropriate tests which led to an improper diagnosis, made mistakes during surgery or committed some other error that resulted in the patient’s injury.
Circumstances When Expert Testimony Is Unnecessary
There are some circumstances when a medical expert may not be necessary, such as when the medical mistake is so obvious that the expert need not testify in front of a jury in order to understand the facts, such as when a surgeon leaves a scalpel or sponge in the patient. The expert testimony is not necessary when the two following conditions are present:
- The medical provider had control over the item or situation that caused the injury
- The injury was only possible due to the health care provider’s failure to adhere to the normal standard of care
An experienced medical malpractice lawyer may be able to review the circumstances of your case and determine whether a medical expert is necessary or not.
Get Legal Help With Your Case Today
If you believe you were injured because of a doctor’s negligence, the legal team at Gorgon & Partners may be able to discuss whether a medical expert is necessary in your case. Since medical testimony is often complex, working with the right medical expert is important in order to help support your case.
Schedule a free consultation to learn more about how we may help you with your claim. There are no upfront legal fees to worry about. We only get paid for our services once you obtain fair compensation.
Contact our office today by calling 1 (855) 722-2552.