A lawyer often hires an expert medical witness when injury is part of a criminal or civil lawsuit. Expert medical witnesses are most commonly used in malpractice and insurance lawsuits.
What does an expert medical witness do?
The expert medical witness has several roles in the typical lawsuit, but the most important role of all may be the value of his credentials in convincing the judge and jury to take the case seriously. Without an expert medical witness to testify on your behalf, there is a real risk that a judge may simply dismiss the case.
The kind of criminal case or lawsuit which requires an expert medical witness may include important medical evidence which is very technical, and which may be hard to explain to a lay judge and jury. It is the job of the expert medical witness to explain the evidence and its importance to the case in a way that the judge and jury can understand.
An expert medical witness in a criminal case, insurance tort, or class action lawsuit, can identify exact injuries and their probable cause. This is useful in cases ranging from car accidents to agricultural contamination of food.
In a medical malpractice lawsuit, an expert medical witness knows the existing standard of care for his area of expertise. This enables him to describe the procedure or treatment as it should have been performed. Then he can explain what did take place instead, such as a prescription mistake, and why it should be considered malpractice.
The expert medical witness can also identify what should have taken place and didn’t. This is commonly the case where the malpractice suit is based on failure to provide the medical standard of care.
When do lawyers hire expert medical witnesses?
A defense lawyer or malpractice lawyer usually hires an expert medical witness when court testimony about injury or medical procedures is needed from someone with the appropriate level of education, training, and experience. Jurors often give evidence from expert medical witnesses more weight in these kinds of cases than any other kind of testimony.
Some malpractice and insurance lawyers may also hire an expert medical witness to assess the validity of the case before it is submitted to a court. This could potentially save you a lot of money in court costs and lawyer fees.
If an expert medical witness is used during a malpractice court case, it is important for the lawyer to choose a person who has actually performed the procedure or treatment about which he will be testifying. The witness must also be familiar with valid alternative treatments under the medical standard of care, such as when a technician or other non-physician is qualified to administer the procedure or treatment. Otherwise the witness’ testimony will be shot down under cross-examination.
In a duel of competing expert medical witnesses, the jury may react more favorably to the testimony of someone local than to the testimony of a “hired gun” from far away, credentials notwithstanding. Thus, if the case is valid, it may be better to find several local qualified doctors who are willing to give medical testimony, rather than fly in Ivy League experts from across the country.