Why and When Medical Expert Witness/Testimony is Needed
Medical expert witnesses are an essential element of many lawsuits, including medical malpractice cases, products liability matters, or other personal injury claims. In many cases, a medical expert’s opinion is a baseline requirement before a claim can even be filed. Below, we discuss how and when a medical expert’s testimony may be used by parties in personal injury litigation. Call a qualified medical expert with any additional questions or for assistance with a case.
Establishing Whether There Was a Breach of Duty (Malpractice)
Medical experts are commonly called upon to evaluate the conduct of other medical professionals. In a medical malpractice case, the plaintiff must establish not only that they suffered an injury at the hands of the defendant, but also that the injury resulted from medical negligence. The plaintiff must establish that a reasonable medical professional in the same situation would have acted differently, and that difference might have prevented the harm the plaintiff ultimately suffered.
A medical expert will look at the conduct of the defendant medical professional in light of the plaintiff’s medical record and presenting injury or illness. The expert will compare that conduct to accepted medical standards, peer-reviewed studies, and even their own experience in similar situations to evaluate whether the defendant acted appropriately. Did they conduct the proper tests? Did they review the results of those tests adequately? Did they prescribe the correct medications or course of treatment? Did they perform the surgery or procedure correctly, even given the risk of complications? Plaintiffs and defendants alike will call upon experts to debate whether the defendant acted appropriately, and the judge or jury’s impression of each expert’s testimony can make or break the case.
Proving or Disproving Damages
Medical expert testimony is also necessary and important in establishing a plaintiff’s damages. Whether the case involves medical malpractice, a slip and fall, a car accident, or even a criminal act, it’s important to quantify and qualify the plaintiff’s injuries. A plaintiff’s expert will testify as to the extent of the plaintiff’s damages–whether they suffered a serious injury, the amount of pain they likely suffered, what functional limitations they are currently experiencing and will presumably experience in the future, how much treatment is apt to cost in the future, etc. The defense expert may, in turn, be called to downplay the plaintiff’s injuries and give a more measured view of the plaintiff’s path to recovery.
Demonstrating the severity of the plaintiff’s injuries and their path to recovery is often one of the most important and hotly contested parts of a personal injury case. The value of a personal injury case ultimately turns on the harm done to the plaintiff, and hiring the right expert can mean the difference between recovering thousands vs. tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.
Likewise, in a criminal case, a medical expert might be called upon to testify about the severity of a victim’s injuries. Whether a victim suffered a mild or serious injury, and whether they are likely to experience short-term, long-term, or permanent damage as a result of the defendant’s actions, could have a significant impact on the severity of the charges for which the defendant may be convicted.
Explaining Medical Concepts to the Jury
A medical expert witness need not always offer an opinion about causation, damages, breach, or other legal questions. Expert witnesses are also helpful in explaining complex or technical matters to the jury in order to give them the tools they need to properly evaluate the evidence presented in the case. A medical expert can explain how certain procedures are meant to work, the symptoms present in certain medical conditions, how a condition progresses or affects the body, or how medical technology is utilized. The expert’s testimony may be used to support either party’s contentions regarding the key issues of the case, but their immediate function may be more explanatory than argumentative.
If you need an experienced, qualified, and thorough expert witness in a personal injury, medical malpractice, or product liability case, contact the offices of Neurosurgery Medlegal Services, LLC, at 866-659-8051.