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Why Are Medical Experts Important In A Medical Malpractice Case?

by Jamie Nichols

Nearly every medical malpractice case eventually comes down to a "battle of the experts." Expert witnesses are often used by the plaintiff to explain to a jury exactly what went wrong during a procedure and how it's a case of malpractice. 

If you've been injured due to a medical provider's negligence, here are the things you need to know about medical experts and your case.

What makes someone a medical expert?

Medical experts are far from the "hired guns" that many insurance companies like to pretend they are. Many of them have extensive knowledge in their fields and have a combination of practical and academic experience. They have professional reputations to preserve, so they have a significant incentive to be truthful about what they believe happened.

It isn't unusual to hire a medical expert that is in the same field as the person accused of making the medical mistake. For example, if a heart surgeon made a mistake that led to a patient's death, the family of the victim may hire another heart surgeon to serve as an expert witness in their case.

Why are medical experts important to a case?

Experts bring a couple of different things to the table in a medical malpractice case. First, a good expert knows how to convey complex medical concepts in a way that is understandable to the average juror. (This is why a background in academics is often helpful for an expert to have.)

Medical experts are also there to establish what type of standard of care was due to the victim in the case given the situation, the victim's condition, and the treating hospital or physician. The standard of care can vary according to different circumstances. For example, a patient who suffers a stroke in a rural hospital wouldn't likely receive the same standard of care that a patient in a massive teaching hospital would receive. The technology, available treatments, and level of skill among the physicians would all be different.

How do you find a medical expert for your case?

When an expert is needed to help explain a case to a jury, the medical malpractice attorney handling the claim will usually reach out to professionals that have the reputation for a thoughtful approach to the evidence and the ability to give clear testimony. One of the major advantages of working with a medical malpractice attorney is that they understand when it's necessary to go to the trouble of hiring an expert witness and when it isn't.