Medical malpractice cases are complex and involve topics that people who do not have a medical background may not understand. Not only is it useful to have expert witnesses, but it can be critical to your case and is usually required.
In some instances, your case will be thrown out by the judge unless you provide experts to explain to the jury why your doctor is at fault for your injury. This is simply needed to allow the jury to understand the basics. The jury does not have to accept the expert’s testimony, but they must use it to weigh out the evidence and make a decision based on all the facts of the case. Of course, the defense will have experts as well.
What exactly is being considered?
It comes down to two basic considerations. First, did the doctor exercise proper standards of care when treating the patient? The expert will explain what another doctor with the same knowledge would have done to treat the patient. This means they will identify the standards of the industry and will explain how the doctor being sued failed to meet that standard. Your attorney will provide studies, documents, articles, and other information to show the jury that the practices used were below standard level. The jury takes the information into consideration but is not required to accept the expert’s opinion as the final word.
Second, the expert must explain to the jury how the doctor’s failure to meet standard levels of care caused injury to the patient. This is not a black and white situation. There are times when a procedure simply does not work, or the outcome is less than what the doctor or patient hoped for before the treatment. What must be evident is that the doctor failed the patient and that failure resulted in an injury that could have been avoided.
When do you need the expert?
Before your case can go to trial, both the plaintiff and defendant must present expert affidavits to the court, spelling out what they believe and how they intend to prove it. If you do not have the expert affidavits, your case will most likely be dismissed and never see the courtroom.
The experts must meet certain criteria of the courts to be acceptable. This approach takes their area of expertise, academic, and practical experience into account. Your medical malpractice attorney will be the best judge of a person’s qualifications as required by the court.
There are always exceptions. Some mistakes are so obvious that an expert is not needed. For example, if the doctor left a sponge inside a patient during surgery, there is no other explanation for how the sponge ended up inside the patient. The medical professional had full control in this situation and was negligent. However, in these types of cases, most of the time the doctor will settle the case with the plaintiff without going to trial. The attorney for the defendant and your medical malpractice attorney will hash out the details and come to an agreement for adequate compensation.