Expert medical witnesses are primary players in medical malpractice and negligence cases. Their services can be the difference between winning a settlement for a victim or a doctor maintaining his medical license in an unreasonable lawsuit. Selecting the right expert witness is often the key to securing victory. However, finding medical expert witness services isn’t quite as simple as popping over to the local hospital and asking for professional medical opinions at the food court. Here’s a quick guide to a few of the things medical malpractice experts provide.
Long before a trial takes place, expert witnesses help attorneys understand complicated and technical subjects. In a medical malpractice or negligence case, that may mean a surgeon helps the attorneys understand all the medical decisions that lead to the surgery and then walking legal staff and attorneys through the surgical procedure.
Often, this takes place before a lawsuit is even filed. In medical negligence cases, experts will help lawyers determine whether standards of care were breached in a particular instance. In some states, the expert witnesses are required to have certain areas of expertise and be willing to testify. Every state is a little bit different, so medical cases may require expert testimony before a review panel or other deliberative body in advance of filing litigation.
If a medical case advances to litigation, both sides typically retain experts to argue their sides. These experts will give depositions providing insight and opinions on what happened. A deposition is recorded testimony given under oath. Often, attorneys for both sides are present during a deposition and can ask questions. These depositions are often the most critical pieces of discovery in a medical malpractice case.
Many times, cases can be resolved without going to court based on the strength of expert testimony. Thanks to the expertise and knowledge of medical witnesses, some cases are settled after depositions are taken.
As you can see, having the right expert witnesses can make or break a case. So what are some traits of the most reliable medical experts?
First, the best are unbiased sources of information. Truthful analysis of standards of care are what a judge and jury seek in reaching a decision in a case. So medical expert witnesses should be objective and accurate.
A trial judge–in determining whether a candidate can be called an expert–will consider whether the witness’s research is peer reviewed, whether whatever theory the expert is advancing can be tested, whether there’s a known error rate for the theory, and then the general acceptance of the theory by the greater scientific community.
Finally, the best witnesses are aggressive in explaining their knowledge, experience, and their reasoning. Because there are no uniform standards for credentialing medical experts, many medical expert witnesses realize that they could be sanctioned or sued if their information isn’t rock solid.
Some medical societies request that physicians who testify as experts join so they are held accountable to certain ethical standards. Professionals who belong to medical societies who testify irresponsibly can be subject to various forms of discipline.
From helping make a determination in whether a lawsuit is the best course of action to testifying in open court, medical expert witnesses are the backbone of medical malpractice and negligence cases.