Expert Testimony in Medical Malpractice

Posted by on Jan 27, 2014 in Personal Injury | 0 comments

Medical malpractice suits are filed in the U.S. against physicians at an average of 17,000 per year, a number that is said to be declining. This is partly because of tort reforms which limits the awards that a plaintiff can receive. It is also partly because medical malpractice suits more often than not end in favor of the medical professional.

One of the ways in which medical professionals have the upper hand is the requirement of the plaintiff to prove that there was a breach of the standard of care. This standard of care is automatic and expected whenever a medical professional takes on a patient for care and treatment. In most medical malpractice cases, such a determination may only be arrived at with the use of expert witness, who will be responsible with determining whether or not the medical practitioner was negligent.

An expert witness is one who has the knowledge and skills to qualify as a reliable source of a considered opinion on a particular case. In medical malpractice, the expert witness should have the qualifications in the relevant field to render an opinion that may be taken as fact. For example, if the case concerns issues related to neurosurgery, an expert witness should be a neurosurgeon on the same level as or higher than the defendant in terms of skill and experience. Mere academic qualifications are not enough. The expert witness must be qualified by the court based on established legal standards. He or she must have certifiable credentials and experience in the field. Numerous teaching positions or successful surgeries in the field in question help such an expert witness’s credibility.

It is common practice to have a hearing prior to court testimony of the expert witness to evaluate if the forthcoming testimony is reliable and relevant. Most courts use either the “gatekeeper” model (first used in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals) or the older Frye test (scientific consensus). In either case, the court will determine the value of the testimony in proving negligence before it is presented at trial.

Aside from the expert witness requirements, medical malpractice suits involve a massive amount of documentation, including medical records, depositions, motions, and research on relevant casework. If you have been injured because of the negligence of a medical professional, you certainly have the right to compensation. The first thing you should do is to consult with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer. The lawyer will determine if there is a good case at hand, and provide you with all the information you need to have to decide whether or not to pursue a case.

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