How an Expert Witness Can Help Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
December 14, 2021 | Medical Malpractice
The Role of an Expert Witness in a Medical Malpractice Case
The job of an expert witness in a medical malpractice lawsuit is to give their professional opinion about whether or not the defendant, or doctor, violated the standard of care, which caused the plaintiff’s injury.
An expert witness is often consulted by lawyers on either side of a case–for example, defense attorneys can hire experts to say that the treatment was not appropriate, and the plaintiff’s attorney can hire experts to say that it was.
It is possible for an expert to testify as “the neutral expert”–meaning that they are not working for any party in the trial, but are there to provide their opinion about what happened based on the facts of the case. Their job is simply to answer questions from both sides then give their professional opinion about what happened.
An expert witness can be extremely important in bringing about a positive outcome in your medical malpractice case. Not only do they provide insight into whether or not the treatment was appropriate based on their experience and knowledge, but also they can help strengthen your case.
Expert witnesses are often necessary in proving negligence–that is, whether or not there were any red flags that should have given doctors reason to question the treatment they were providing.
Do All Medical Malpractice Cases Need an Expert Witness?
Not all medical malpractice cases need an expert witness–if your case is clear cut, with plenty of evidence to support your claims without the help of an expert, then you may be able to get through trial with a favorable outcome.
However, if there are any questions about what happened or whether or not the doctor violated standards of care, it would be in your best interest to hire an expert witness.
At the end of the day it’s about preparing as best you can to win your case. An expert witness is someone who can help shine light on facts that might otherwise be missed or obscured, which can strengthen your case and increase your chances of success.
Who Can Be an Expert Witness?
Not everyone can be an expert witness in a medical malpractice case. The qualifications and expertise of the witness should be relevant to the specifics of your case.
For example, if you’re suing a hospital for wrongful birth, then you might want to hire an expert who can testify about the necessity of prenatal testing.
If you were injured by a medical device, then your expert witness might need to be someone who knows about that particular type of device, how it works, and the risks associated with misusing it.
There are plenty of fields in which someone can specialize as an expert witness in medical malpractice cases, such as:
- Emergency Room Physicians
- Obstetricians and Gynecologists
- Radiation Oncologists
- Pediatricians and Pediatric Specialists
- Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs)
You can also hire experts who have experience in general medicine, but in most situations it would be preferable if they had qualifications in a particular area.
Some states require that expert witnesses must be licensed in the same state where the trial is taking place. For example, if you’re suing a doctor in California, then your expert witness must also be licensed to practice in California.
How an Expert Witness Proves Negligence
An expert witness can help prove that there was negligence by identifying some detail about the situation that should have been noticed by the defendant. For example, the patient’s injury may have warranted a procedure different than the one that was performed, a test wasn’t ordered when it should have been, etc. The point being that there was an opportunity for the doctor to know that something was wrong and do something about it, but they did not.
There are a number of different factors that an expert witness can help show to be evidence of negligence. For example, failing to meet the standard of care, a deviation from an established protocol, or breaching informed consent are all things that can go towards proving that someone has been negligent.
Although medical experts are not allowed to give an opinion about whether a doctor was negligent, they can identify deviations from the standard of care that would have been seen by a reasonable doctor.
Legal Help for Your Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
If you’re considering filing a medical malpractice lawsuit, get in touch with Napoli Shkolnik. Our dedicated team of attorneys will guide you through the entire process, including deciding whether or not an expert witness can help your medical malpractice lawsuit.
Get in touch with Napoli Shkolnik today!
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