Thirty states now employ a very specific set of rules to testimony by expert medical witnesses in medical malpractices cases. In the vast majority of these states, the expert medical witness must be of the same or comparable medical background and the defendant in the case.
Here’s where it gets tricky. Not only are the criteria for “similar” defined differently from state to state but also court to court. Many of these definitions are not favorable to the defendants. These loose definitions from court to court have allowed for some weak cases to progress. Maryland recently progressed in courts that ruled a vascular surgeon was able to testify on the standard of care of an orthopedic surgeon, a pharmacist was ruled able to testify against a doctor in an informed consent case, and a nephrologist was deemed as qualified to testify for the plaintiff against a urologist.
The legal world and the medical world are far apart. It is not common knowledge that all doctors are not knowledgeable on every subject. It is completely plausible that one type of doctor can have no working knowledge of another’s area of expertise, including treatments, protocol and aftercare.
California has not escaped this trend. In 2012, a nurse was permitted to counter the testimony of a licensed physician on the cause of an injury in a California appeals court. These instances have a great effect on the outcome of the trials.
The expert witness can cost cases in other ways as well. Their testimony is essential to win any trial. There are websites dedicated solely to experts who are qualified, able and more than willing to testify in your trial if the money is right.
The problem arises when that cost comes into play. The cost of flying in, boarding, feeding and paying an expert witness is quite costly. Factoring that into the cost of the attorney and there suddenly is a prerequisite amount a case can be worth before it’s even worth an attorney’s time.
Many professionals feel that a jury is only confused by the conflicting testimonies of experts in medicine. The average jury person cannot discern the medical differences in technical speak. Is the cost of an expert witness worth it? This question has begun to be asked in legal circles more and more often in recent years.
Whether or not the use of expert witnesses is changing how attorneys take on their cases, or if they are economical at all, is a question that will have to wait, however. For the time being they are used and are an important part of medical malpractice trials. Knowing which witnesses to choose and how to question the other guy’s experts is just as important.
Moseley Collins is a Christian attorney with years of experience in medical malpractice cases. His Christian values and valuable experience make him a force to be reckoned with in the courtroom. Call his offices to day to ensure you have the best expert witnesses possible in your medical malpractice case.