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Expert Witnesses and Your Medical Malpractice Case

July 24, 2015 by Joseph J. Manna

All health care providers must meet certain standards of care every time they treat patients. They are the “patient safety rules” doctors must follow. Meeting the standard of care means that the doctor or other medical provider is acting with the amount of skill and care that doctors expect from each other.  When the standard of care has not been met and harm has resulted, the provider can be sued for medical malpractice. 

Expert witnesses are always used to help prove whether or not your health care provider met the standard of care. Working with expert witnesses to prove that a health care provider did not meet the standard of care is often a critical element to the success of a medical malpractice case. This article will explain how expert witnesses are likely to be involved in your medical malpractice case.

Evaluating your doctor’s behavior

Meeting the standard of care means your doctor will have done what doctors generally agree should have been done under your health care situation.  

In order to determine whether your doctor did what she should have done, she will be compared with similar professionals in similar situations. Thus, the expert witnesses (doctors or other health care professionals) will need to testify about what a competent and reasonably skilled doctor would have done in the same situation.

Expert witnesses are invaluable for helping strengthen the plaintiff’s case that the provider did not provide competent care based on accepted standards of medical practice. 

Overview of the expert’s role

As a plaintiff, your expert witness or witnesses will apply the medical standard of care for your situation to show precisely how your doctor failed to provide care that measures up to the standard. This often means the witness will present detailed testimony about what was done to you and contrast it with what should have been done to meet the standard. The goal will be to show the provider was negligent or that he made an error.

Phases of the case

In order for a potential medical malpractice claim to move forward, your attorney must consult with at least one licensed medical provider who will state that your claim has merit. This person is serving as an expert witness. After the case’s merit has been established, the discovery phase will begin. The purpose of discovery is to identify all the facts related to the case.  You will have to answer pre-trial questions in a deposition and so will the health care providers involved in your care.

In New York, the identity of your expert witness will be kept confidential under state law. They are not subject to deposition questioning during the discovery phase, which is different from many other states and federal court. Their identity is not disclosed until the day the trial begins.  

If the case does go to trial, expert witnesses will be called to testify. The witnesses will typically give information that is very similar to the information covered at the deposition, but now they will also be tasked with persuading the judge or jury of the validity of their side’s arguments. In the case of a settlement or summary judgement, the expert witnesses’ opinions will be used to arrive at a settlement amount or to draft a persuasive motion. 

Whichever way the case proceeds, expert witnesses are likely to play a critical role from start to finish. An experienced medical malpractice attorney will help connect you with the best experts for your particular situation. Good medical malpractice lawyers have experts who have been battle tested in prior medical malpractice trials.  

Who can help?

If you've suffered a catastrophic injury due to medical malpractice, taking on the powerful medical industry might seem like a daunting task. At Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria, based in Buffalo, New York, we have experienced medical malpractice trial lawyers who know the best way to pursue your case. We are respected by experienced medical malpractice defense attorneys, who know that we will spare no expense to retain leading medical experts from well-respected medical practices and universities to help ensure you get justice and full compensation for your injuries.

This article does not purport to give legal advice and is for informational purposes only.


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