The Critical Role of Expert Witnesses in a Medical Malpractice Case

by | Mar 1, 2023 | Medical Malpractice

Expert witnesses often play a critical role in the outcome of a medical malpractice case in which the negligence or misconduct of a healthcare provider has harmed a patient. Their specialized knowledge and opinions are generally required to prove that the defendant – whether it be a doctor, medical team, or hospital – breached the applicable standard of care and that the related injuries and damages were directly caused by that medical negligence.

Who Qualifies as an Expert Witness?

In a medical malpractice case, an expert witness is typically someone qualified by their education, background, and experience to provide an opinion on issues relevant to the case, including the standard of care that applies to the healthcare professional being sued for malpractice. These qualifications can vary depending on the jurisdiction and the case’s circumstances. Still, some general criteria will include advanced degrees, board certification, clinical and academic experience, expertise in the area in question, and some degree of impartiality.

Expert witnesses in medical malpractice cases often include those actively practicing in their medical field, including specialists with advanced credentials, medical professors, and retired physicians. Most of the time, expert witnesses must have a similar medical background, specialty area, and professional experience to the defendant.

After considering the qualifications, Knowledge, and experience of the individual in question, the judge presiding over the case will determine whether a particular individual qualifies as an expert witness in a medical malpractice case.

How an Expert Witness Helps Build a Case

The plaintiff’s attorney must be able to obtain the well-supported opinions of well-qualified and credible expert medical witnesses to order to:

  • Establish the standard of care that was required in a particular situation, and prove how the defendant healthcare provider’s actions failed to meet that standard.
  • Establish that the defendant’s deviations from the standard of care more likely than not caused the plaintiff’s injuries.
  • Establish the severity and/or permanency of the plaintiff’s injuries and the likely need for future medical care and services.

Defendants will often have their own expert witnesses, so the success of a claim may hinge on which witnesses the jury finds most knowledgeable and trustworthy.

Cases that Typically Enlist Expert Testimony

While expert witnesses are needed for most medical malpractice cases, some require more specialized and complex expert testimony. Examples include:

  • Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis: Expert testimony is needed to determine whether the healthcare provider negligently missed a diagnosis that should have been made and whether the delay in diagnosis caused the patient harm.
  • Surgical errors: Surgeon experts must testify that the surgeon deviated from the accepted standards of care for that surgery and that the deviation caused the patient harm.
  • Medication errors: Doctors or pharmacists must testify that the healthcare provider failed to prescribe the correct medication at the appropriate dosage and that the wrong kind or amount of drug injured the patient.
  • Birth injuries: Expert obstetricians are required in cases involving birth injuries to evaluate whether the healthcare provider failed to follow proper protocols before, during, and sometimes after delivery of the child and whether such failures were the cause of the infant’s injuries.
  • Anesthesia errors: Anesthesiologists must testify that the anesthesiologist or other healthcare provider at issue failed to administer and maintain the anesthesia correctly and that such negligence caused the patient harm.

Experience Matters

Medical malpractice can cause devastating harm to patients and their loved ones. Pursuing a medical malpractice case to recover compensation for that harm can be a lengthy and complex process.  Success in these cases requires the services of well-qualified and credible expert witnesses, as well as skillful and experienced legal counsel. Therefore, it’s essential to enlist the help of the best attorney available, someone who can gather the necessary evidence to evaluate your case and secure the required testimony of top-notch expert witnesses.

Menzer Law Can Help

Attorney Matt Menzer is a highly-skilled, respected, and compassionate lawyer who has represented people injured by medical malpractice for over 30 years. He is deeply familiar with the expert witness community in greater Seattle and beyond and is highly qualified to select witnesses who can best support your medical malpractice case. You can count on Matt to protect your rights and help you achieve maximum compensation for your injuries and damages.

If you or someone you love was seriously injured because a healthcare provider failed to meet their duty of care, contact Menzer Law at 206.903.1818 or fill out this online form, and our team will review your claim at no cost to you.

Disclaimer: This content is written for educational purposes and is intended to provide general information and understanding of the law. The information should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state.