Posted on 04/29/2021

What Types of Experts are Necessary for a Medical Malpractice Case?

What Types of Experts are Necessary for a Medical Malpractice Case?

Expert witnesses are essential elements of most medical malpractice cases. Because medical malpractice cases typically involve complex health and medical information, medical malpractice experts, specialists, and professionals testifying on your behalf can provide insight and answers about medical procedures, diagnoses, standard of care, causation, and damage, improving your chance at a successful outcome.

Your medical malpractice attorney has the comprehensive understanding and resources to help you find the best expert witness(es) for your medical malpractice case. Keep reading to find out why that can make all the difference.

How do I prove medical malpractice?

While all medical malpractice cases are unique, there are general requirements that must be established in all cases to prove medical malpractice actually occurred. These include:

  • Your healthcare provider or medical facility failed to meet the legally required medical standard of care through action or inaction
  • You experienced injuries as a direct result of that negligence 

These elements can be drastically different for every person making them challenging to prove. As the person filing the medical malpractice claim, your side of the case has to meet the burden of proof, and medical expert witnesses may be able to help.

What does a medical expert witness do?

A medical expert’s role is to give a comprehensive and unbiased opinion on whether the medical professional or facility met the professional standard of care. They will look at whether the healthcare providers exercised a reasonable degree of skill and knowledge and whether they performed their job the same as another typical, reasonable healthcare practitioner would have under similar circumstances.

Medical expert witnesses provide their opinion after conducting a careful review of medical records and research into relevant standards of care. They typically provide both a verbal statement of their findings as well as a written report. If your case reaches the trial stage, they can participate and appear as an expert witness.

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Who can be a medical expert witness?

Witnesses must meet specific requirements to be eligible to be considered an expert for a medical malpractice case. These requirements can vary from state to state but most often include: 

  • Holding a current license or certification as a medical healthcare provider
  • Having experience relevant to the medical malpractice case (i.e., oncology experience for a case concerning cancer diagnosis or treatment) 
  • Spending the majority of their time actually practicing medicine and treating patients

How medical expert testimony helps you prove medical malpractice

Medical expert witnesses are needed to establish two elements crucial to every medical malpractice case: the standard of care and how the healthcare provider or medical facility breached or failed to meet that standard.

Standard of Care

To prove medical malpractice occurred, a plaintiff must be able to establish the standard of care. To do this, medical experts provide testimony regarding the standard of care that another doctor or medical facility in the same geographic region, with the same specialty, and the same approximate education and experience would provide. The medical expert witness provides insight into what a responsible, reasonable medical professional would have done in the same situation while following the appropriate standard of care. 

Medical expert witnesses can speak to areas of medical concern that would have existed, which diagnostic tests they would typically implement, and a likely course of treatment aligning with the established standard of care.

Breach of Standard of Care

To prove the doctor or medical facility breached the standard of care, a medical expert witness can speak to how the doctor or medical facility’s negligence in adhering to the standard of care resulted in patient injury. This can include a statement about tests that were not run, which led to a misdiagnosis or late diagnosis.

Causation and Damages

In addition to standard of care and breach of the standard of care, medical experts may help plaintiffs prove causation and determine damages. 

Causation Experts

Causation experts are medical professionals who can comment on the cause of the injury or death. This can occasionally be raised during a medical malpractice case, especially when a deceased individual had underlying or pre-existing conditions or injuries requiring medical care or attention that could theoretically have caused or contributed to their death.

In such a situation, a causation expert can speak to whether their pre-existing conditions caused their death. In some cases, medical pathology experts can provide specific insight into the cause of death through a second autopsy. 

Damages Experts

Another area where medical malpractice expert witnesses can have an impact is assessing damages. There can be multiple damage types or classifications that a plaintiff may seek, depending on the case’s facts and relevant legal points.

An experienced medical malpractice lawyer can hire the strongest experts to help detail and explain specific evidence.

Damages experts generally fall into two categories: economic damage experts and non-economic damage experts.

  • Economic damages are those actual damages that are typically more straightforward to calculate. Economic damages can include lost wages, future income loss, past or future medical expenses, lost business opportunities resulting from the injuries suffered, etc.
  • Non-economic damages are those intangible, subjective losses that can be more challenging to quantify. Non-economic damages include pain, suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, etc.

Sometimes, your case’s success can hang on the knowledge, experience, and credibility of the medical malpractice experts working with you. This is why having an attorney with 25 years of experience in medical malpractice cases can help in understanding the best way to prepare your case to strive for a successful outcome.

Expert witnesses are an essential part of most medical malpractice cases. Ensuring your medical malpractice lawsuit has qualified expert witnesses who can present your case’s facts makes working with an experienced medical malpractice law firm such as Grover Johnson Lewis more important than ever. Reach out to our dedicated, fearless team of medical malpractice experts today for a free, no-obligation consultation. We can’t erase what happened to you or your loved one, but if you have suffered because of medical malpractice, we are ready to help you get the proper compensation you deserve.

Photo by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels