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Using expert testimony in malpractice defenses

Situations involving an adverse medical event can be highly emotional and stressful for all parties involved. They are also highly technical and complex in terms of assessing what happened and whether negligence was a factor.

As such, expert witnesses often play a vital role in medical malpractice claims.

Who can be a witness?

Generally, any individual with specialized knowledge, training or skills in a specific area can provide expert testimony.

Some parties who traditionally serve as expert witnesses in medical malpractice claims include:

  • Physicians
  • Specialists
  • Nurses
  • Pharmaceutical experts
  • Surgeons
  • Toxicologists
  • Care planners

These individuals can provide explanations and opinions that help a judge or jury better understand care practices.

That said, not all persons who fit these criteria can offer admissible testimony. For instance, if the case involves novel scientific or medical procedures, a witness’s statements must be generally accepted as reliable in the appropriate community.

What might they say?

Because of their background and knowledge, expert witnesses can clarify complicated terms or procedures. They can give educated opinions to provide context to medical conditions.

More specifically, these parties can provide valuable insight into sophisticated matters, including:

  • What a reasonable doctor or healthcare professional is trained to do in certain circumstances
  • Whether and to what degree a party may have deviated from accepted practices
  • The likelihood that an injury might have occurred if not for the medical event
  • Medication interactions
  • Estimations of future losses or disability

These issues can be subjective or controversial. Often, there are many different ways of looking at these elements. Experts can help non-medical professionals recognize the fact that negligence and recklessness are not always to blame for an adverse medical event.

Working with the experts

Often, plaintiffs will have their own experts to testify on their behalf, so defendants must be ready to deliver expert testimony to contradict, clarify or challenge the plaintiff’s experts.

Parties named in medical malpractice claims face damaging allegations and hefty financial penalties. Strategies like finding the right experts to weigh in on the disputes can have a tremendous impact on the legal, financial and professional outcomes of these cases.

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