Medical Malpractice: What You Should Know About Expert Testimony

Medical malpractice cases are often complex, particularly when it comes to demonstrating that a doctor should be held liable for a patient’s injuries. This means nearly every medical malpractice lawsuit will require testimony from a medical expert. In fact, the state of Florida requires the opinion of a medical expert for the pre-suit stage — before you can even file a lawsuit.

Expert medical testimony is required for a malpractice lawsuit because the jury will not be made up of doctors or other medical professionals. The purpose of medical experts is to explain complicated facts that are relevant to the case in a way that laypersons can understand and consider.

What does medical expert testimony include?

In testimony, a medical expert is expected to address two key questions that are at the heart of every malpractice lawsuit: whether the doctor followed standards of care and whether failure to follow standards of care resulted in injury to the patient.

Standard of care: In this part of the testimony, the medical expert describes what a competent doctor should have done given the situation presented by the lawsuit. The expert would also provide his or her opinion of whether the defendant in the case met the standard. Since there are no rigidly defined rules for medical standards, medical board guidelines or industry publications may be presented as evidence.

Cause of injury: Next, the medical expert will offer an opinion about whether the doctor being sued caused injury to the patient by failing to meet the standard of care, usually through incompetence or negligence. There are often several factors that contribute to this opinion.

Who is considered a medical expert?

The rules regarding who may testify as a medical expert vary from state to state. In Florida, new 2013 laws require expert medical witnesses to have actually practiced in the same field and medical specialty as the defendant named in the lawsuit. If the defendant is a general practitioner then a general practitioner may be called as a witness, but if a neurosurgeon is being sued the only acceptable expert witness is another neurosurgeon.

Exceptions to this law are limited to the rare cases where medical experts are not required. These are instances where the medical malpractice is clear and obvious, such as the classic example of a sponge being left inside a patient after surgery.

When do you need a medical expert?

Both the plaintiff and the defendants in a lawsuit must enlist expert medical witnesses and disclose their testimony before the trial begins. The court sets a deadline for the expert testimony and if either side fails to provide testimony the case will be decided in favor of the other party without going to trial.

If you’re considering a medical malpractice lawsuit, it is in your best interest to work with an experienced attorney who understands all the complexities of medical law and is able to secure expert medical witnesses for your case.

The Miami trial lawyers at Baron, Herskowitz, and Cohen have successfully represented many clients in medical malpractice lawsuits. We work with some of the finest medical experts in the state.

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