Medical Malpractice and Expert Witnesses

18th October 2010
By Tacit Logic in Medical Malpractice
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Most medical malpractice cases require the input of expert witnesses, for many reasons. Usually the facts in the case are technical and medical details that need to be explained to those not familiar with the medical field, such as the jury. Also, an opinion by an expert will add credibility to the case. Some states even require that a medical expert gives their opinion before a lawsuit can even be filed.

The goal of a malpractice suit for the plaintiff is to prove negligence on the part of the doctor, hospital, or other defendant. The expert witness will provide two crucial opinions:

1. Did the defendant provide the same standard of care that other doctors would have provided in the same situation?

2. Did the defendant injure the patient by not following the standard of care?

Standard of care is difficult to prove. The medical expert witness is allowed to state what a typical doctor would have done in the situation that generated the lawsuit. They can then give their opinion as to whether the defendant provided that same standard of care to the plaintiff. Documents such as medical journals and medical board guidelines may be used to back up the expertís opinion.


In addition, the expert witness should address whether the acute negligence on the part of the defendant caused the injury to the plaintiff. It must be proven that the failure of the doctor to provide standard of care was the direct cause of the damages to the patient. In some cases, the doctor does not provide an acceptable standard of care but did not actually case the injury, and the difference needs to be legally proven.

Qualifications to be a medical expert witness can vary depending upon the case and the medical specialty involved. For example, a surgical case will have more validity if a surgeon was the expert witness and not another type of doctor. Expert witnesses generally must have experience in the field and some type of academic proof of their abilities and knowledge.

Even if some cases seem obvious, it is always a good idea to have an expert witness available to testify.

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