The Role of Expert Witnesses in Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

Written by Atlee Hall

Expert witnesses can be helpful in many types of legal proceedings, from criminal cases to personal injury claims. Medical malpractice claims can be especially tricky to prove. Jury members are not likely to be well-versed in complex medical topics or procedures.

This is where a credible expert witness can leave a lasting impression on the jury and ultimately make a difference in the outcome of your medical malpractice lawsuit.

Who Qualifies as an Expert Witness?

Not just any doctor can be an expert witness. Expert witnesses in medical malpractice cases are typically qualified in many ways. Their educations, their practice areas, and their experience, both clinical and academic, give them credibility.

Based on their knowledge, they will provide opinions on critical questions in the case. Proving that the defendant deviated from the standard of care is crucial to proving your case. Witnesses can support your story in this aspect.

Medical malpractice expert witnesses are often practicing healthcare professionals. They can also be professors of medicine and retired physicians. Expert witnesses often possess advanced degrees, board certification, and expertise in their field of medicine.

Depending on your case, the expert witness will have a similar medical background, practice area, and professional experience to the defendant. This makes them more believable when explaining how the defendant did not follow the standard of care they should uphold.

A judge will determine whether a proposed expert witness can testify in the case. They will consider the expert’s qualifications, specialized knowledge, and relevant experience.

How Do Expert Witnesses Support Medical Malpractice Claims?

An expert’s testimony should help the jury understand whether you have met all the necessary elements of a medical malpractice claim. Their statements should outline how, in their opinion, the defendant failed to meet the standard of care and how this caused your injuries.

To support this, your attorney will direct the expert to describe the practices and procedures a competent doctor would follow in similar circumstances. They will also explain how the defendant’s actions deviated from those norms. An expert witness will break down the technicalities to make the concepts at hand understandable to non-medical professionals.

An expert can draw from their personal experience and knowledge. They can also cite academic research and industry standards to support their opinions. Experts may not be needed in every medical malpractice case, especially where the alleged malpractice is egregious.

An expert may also address other potential factors that could have contributed to the harm you suffered. They will truthfully evaluate whether facts suggest that the defendant’s negligence was the sole cause of your injuries or if they simply added to them.

Can the Defense Present Their Own Experts?

In a medical malpractice case, the defense team will likely retain their own experts. Both sides will disclose what their experts will testify about during the trial. The experts on both sides may have different opinions on the matter at hand. Your attorney should create a targeted strategy to discredit the other’s experts and their findings.

Types of Cases Where Expert Witnesses Can Help

Expert witnesses can help in several medical malpractice cases requiring specialized and in-depth testimony. Expert testimony can support claims of any of the following:

  • Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis: Healthcare professionals can weigh in to determine whether the healthcare provider negligently made an incorrect diagnosis or didn’t make a correct diagnosis in a reasonable amount of time — either scenario can cause harm.
  • Birth injuriesAn obstetrician’s testimony can be invaluable in birth injury cases. They can provide insight into whether the defendant failed to follow proper delivery protocols. They can explain how such failures caused the infant’s injuries.
  • Surgical errorsSurgeons can explain how a defendant’s actions during a procedure deviated from the accepted standards of care and how doing so caused the patient harm.
  • Medication errors: Doctors and pharmacists have detailed knowledge of drugs, their uses, and appropriate dosages for different patients. Their testimony can support a claim that the healthcare provider prescribed the wrong medication or dosage and how those errors can injure a patient.
  • Anesthesia errorsAnesthesiologists can explain how failing to keep a patient properly anesthetized can cause harm.

These are some of the most common types of medical malpractice where an expert witness might be needed. Your medical malpractice attorney will investigate your case and evaluate whether calling in a witness is necessary.

Call Atlee Hall Today to Discuss Your Medical Malpractice Case

The credibility and persuasiveness of an expert can sway the jury toward a desirable outcome in your case, as well as any settlement negotiations that may occur during the legal process. Expert witnesses can substantially strengthen your medical malpractice claim, but you shouldn’t go through the process of finding the right one on your own. Instead, you should work with a medical malpractice attorney who can retain the proper testimonial support to help recover the compensation you deserve.

The medical malpractice attorneys of Atlee Hall understand the value that expert testimony can bring to your claim. Our team has brought in a variety of expert witnesses to support many successful claims. We will hear your story, investigate what happened, and bring in expert witnesses if necessary.

Call (717) 393-9596 today or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation.