The Importance of Expert Witnesses in Medical Malpractice Cases

Do I need an expert witness to testify in my medical malpractice action?

Medical malpractice cases involve complex medical and legal issues.  Non-doctors lack the medical knowledge to be able to make an informed decision as to whether the doctor in question acted negligently.  For this reason, it is critical that medical malpractice plaintiffs secure the testimony of an experienced expert witness. Our New York City medical malpractice lawyers discuss the importance of expert witnesses in medical malpractice cases and how you can find an expert witness below.

Expert Witnesses Are Necessary in Medical Malpractice Cases

Medical malpractice cases in New York will nearly always require expert witness testimony.  Absent an expert witness, the case may be dismissed early on for lack of evidence. Medical expert witnesses are needed in malpractice cases because these cases are too complicated for a jury to decide on their own.  

Medical experts will be allowed to testify to two main questions in a medical malpractice case: 1) did the defendant doctor follow the standard of care for doctors in the same field under similar circumstances? and 2) did the defendant doctor’s failure to meet the standard of care result in the patient’s injury?

Medical experts will offer vital testimony as to what a normal and competent physician would have done in a similar situation.  The expert will base this testimony on his or her own personal experience, as well as standards established by medical publications or medical boards.  Once the standards for a doctor in the field have been established, the expert can then offer testimony that supports a finding that the doctor’s negligence caused the plaintiff’s injuries.

Finding an Expert Witness

Your attorney will often prove instrumental in finding an expert witness who meets the qualifications and will offer strong support for your case.  Often, a physician in the medical field in question will make a powerful expert witness. For example, if the case involves a surgical error, your expert witness will likely be a surgeon in the relevant field.  For cases involving general medicine, any number of doctors could meet the qualifications. You will generally need to identify your expert witness and provide a summary of his or her proposed testimony early on in the case.

About the Author
Of all the different areas in medical malpractice, it is podiatry malpractice that has had a particular interest to me. With 42 years practicing law and representing hundreds of victims of malpractice, I have created a law practice in which my clients are comfortable knowing that their case is being handled with my personal attention, in the most professional manner, and without unreasonable delays.