Expert witnesses can be necessary for a wide range of lawsuits to guide the court or to explain information about highly technical subjects that the typical layperson would not understand on his own. Expert testimony is often required for a medical malpractice case, both to satisfy state laws and to prove your case.
What Laws Require Me to Hire an Expert Witness in a Medical Malpractice Action?
Many states have laws that serve as obstacles to overcome when suing doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers. For example, some states have enacted laws that require plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases to file a sworn statement from a medical professional that vouches for the plaintiff’s claim. The expert witness usually has to say in the affidavit that the case has merit.
For example, within 90 days of filing a Missouri medical malpractice lawsuit, state law requires the plaintiff to file an affidavit stating they possess a written opinion from a “legally qualified health care provider.” This written opinion must say that the defendant failed to exercise the care that a “reasonably prudent and careful health care provider” would have used in that situation. As a result of that failure, the plaintiff suffered the harm alleged in the lawsuit.
The best way to obtain this medical expert testimony is by working with a medical malpractice lawyer. At Newsome | Melton, our legal team has a network of qualified health care providers around the country we can turn to for expert testimony. Though there is usually a cost associated with working with a medical expert, we charge on a contingency fee basis. That means you do not pay our legal costs unless you receive compensation.
Why Do I Need Expert Testimony?
To win a medical malpractice claim, you must prove that the doctor, hospital, or health care provider was negligent and the negligence caused you harm. Establishing negligence in a medical malpractice case is different than in other types of personal injury cases, such as car accident claims.
How Do I Establish Negligence in a Medical Malpractice Case?
When a doctor breaches the duty of care they owe to a patient, that represents medical negligence. The duty in a medical malpractice case is the medical standard of care that applies to the particular situation.
The medical standard of care is what a prudent doctor or other health care provider would have done in the same situation as the defendant.
Once you establish the pertinent medical standard of care for the situation, you generally must have an expert witness testify as to whether, in her opinion, the defendant met that standard. If the defendant met the pertinent standard of care—even if you suffered an unpleasant result from treatment—there was no malpractice. The standard of care does not require perfection or a positive outcome. If, on the other hand, the expert testifies that the defendant failed to meet the pertinent standard of care, you may be a victim of medical negligence.
The second thing the expert must establish is that the plaintiff’s harm was a result of the defendant’s breach of the duty of care. The negligence must cause or directly contribute to the harm the plaintiff suffered.
When Should I Get an Expert Witness for My Medical Malpractice Case?
If your state requires you to file a written opinion from a legally qualified medical expert, you will have to hire an expert right away. You may only have a few months to file this affidavit.
If your state law does not require this initial affidavit, it is usually advisable to consult with a medical expert to confirm that you have a valid case against your health care provider.
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