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Is Expert Witness Testimony Required in Medical Malpractice?

Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran

Most cases that involve a claim for malpractice in a medical situation require the services of an independent medical expert witness to testify to the court regarding the injury. In some cases, an expert is not required, but usually, the negligence is so evident it is clear to the court there has been professional performance below an expected standard of care that an expert opinion is not needed.

In either situation, it is always best to contact a malpractice lawyer like the medical malpractice and personal injury attorneys at Cochran, Kroll, & Associates P.C. to decide the best course of action for your medical malpractice claim.

The plaintiff in the malpractice suit must be able to prove there was a degree of negligence on the part of the medical practitioner that caused the injury, and the injury itself is not enough to prove the negligence in medical malpractice cases.

This is why an expert is called in. An expert is a person who can present a credible explanation of what went wrong, and this person must have the qualifications in a specific field of medicine in order to convince the court that a prudent doctor would not have made the decision that led to the injury. This individual is called a medical expert witness and they are typically familiar with the elements of medical malpractice in their medical specialty.

Qualifications of an Expert Witness

In Michigan, an expert witness has to be able to meet specific standards to be credible in the eyes of the court. The judge will take into consideration the education of the witness and the general training of the witness in the medical profession. In some cases, a judge will not allow one doctor to testify against another unless there is a clear distinction between their status in terms of education. Malpractice lawyers must be aware of this when choosing witnesses.

The court will also look to see if the witness is specialized in the treatment associated with the injury, and the length of time the expert has been engaged in clinical work. If the expert is also an instructor for other physicians, there might be a question about qualifications if the expert spends more time in the classroom than in the actual treatment of patients.

Benefits of Having an Expert Testify

As a qualified medical professional, the expert who testifies can add a great deal to the plaintiff’s injury case. The expert can offer a clear explanation of the medical procedures inherent to the case, and he can point out inconsistencies in the decisions leading to the injury.

In complex cases, the defendant will also have an expert witness to support the procedures taken, and this will provide a balance to all testimony given in the trial. It is important to always keep in mind the weight and significance of the issues in the case, and the expert witness adds a great deal of credibility to the plaintiff’s argument.

How Negligence is Established

Proving the standard of care is the underlying theme in medical malpractice lawsuits. The standard of care is the expectation that the defendant physician did the same thing and acted the same way that any other medical professional would have done.

Once the plaintiff proves that a lower level of care was provided, then the plaintiff can ask for compensation for injuries. The expert witness can testify to the level of medical care that would have been acceptable in the same situation, and he can suggest other steps and procedures that might have been taken when if the care was within accepted standards.

Final Thoughts

The testimony of an medical expert witness is not always required for a malpractice medical lawsuit for example when medication errors occurred in a medical practice or hospital. However, in most cases, the issues are very complex, and the expert can assist the plaintiff in communicating the seriousness of the injuries being claimed especially when the patient’s health has been affected and there are long term consequences as a result of poor health care.

At our law firm in Michigan, we take extra care to provide the highest qualified witnesses to support your unique case. Contact us at 866-MICH-LAW for a free consultation and case evaluation.

Disclaimer : The information provided is general and not for legal advice. The blogs are not intended to provide legal counsel and no attorney-client relationship is created nor intended.

Tristan is a professional writer and had careers as a teacher of English, school administrator, and as a broker in real estate sales. He has gained a great deal of legal experience through his service as the president of a teacher's union, a member of the board for a real estate association, and as the chairman of the Government Affairs Committee for the real estate board of directors. Before beginning a full-time job as a freelance writer, he was the Executive Director of the Global Business Alliance for a local Chamber of Commerce and sat on the Government Affairs Committee for the Chamber.



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