Using Expert Witnesses to Prove Negligence in Medical Malpractice Cases
Posted in Medical Malpractice on October 14, 2020
Medical malpractice lawsuits can be very complex. To prove your need for damages, you will need to provide a technical explanation of your injuries to the courtroom, as well as insight into the at-fault professional’s actions. Expert medical witnesses can provide this testimony and provide necessary context to help the court understand the severity of your injuries — making them a valuable asset to a malpractice claim.
How to Prove a Medical Malpractice Claim
For a medical professional to be liable for your injuries, you will need to prove that he or she committed an act of negligence. Medical negligence occurs when a healthcare worker fails to act in a way that a similarly trained and reasonably prudent professional would have under the same circumstances.
To prove negligence, you will need to establish four key facts in your malpractice claim.
- A doctor-patient relationship existed at the time of the negligence, establishing the at-fault professional’s duty of care.
- The at-fault professional breached his or her duty of care to you through a negligent act or omission.
- The breach of duty of care directly caused the injuries you sustained.
- You incurred damages as a result of your injuries. You can only collect compensation for the damages directly related to the malpractice, not the condition that brought you to the doctor initially.
Establishing the duty of care is simple with medical records that name the at-fault party, but showing that the professional’s actions were negligent is more complicated. A medical expert witness can provide valuable testimony to support these remaining elements.
For example, say that you visited the doctor with hallmark symptoms of lung cancer: unintended weight loss, fatigue, a hoarse cough, and blood in your saliva. The doctor dismisses your symptoms and diagnoses you with asthma instead of running the necessary tests to check for cancer. Several months later, your symptoms worsen and you visit another doctor, who diagnoses you with advanced lung cancer.
A medical expert witness can validate your claim by providing testimony on what a reasonably prudent and similarly trained doctor in the same situation would have done. The expert can also provide insight into how doctors typically diagnose conditions like cancer, and the steps that the at-fault professional failed to take. He or she may also explain the difference between lung cancer and asthma, how the disease progresses, and how the first doctor’s actions contributed to a worsening condition. All of this testimony can help establish the at-fault party’s negligence, as well as define which damages you qualify for.
Missouri’s Affidavit of Qualified Health Care Provider
If you suffered an act of medical malpractice in a Missouri healthcare facility, you will need to file an Affidavit of Qualified Health Care Provider when you file your lawsuit. Your expert medical witness can satisfy this requirement, providing a written opinion that your case meets the following criteria.
- The at-fault party failed to provide the treatment that a similarly trained, prudent, and careful professional would have in the same situation.
- The at-fault party’s actions contributed or caused the injuries you are filing the lawsuit over.
Once your lawyer obtains this medical opinion, he or she can file the affidavit within 90 days of filing your lawsuit. Failure to file this affidavit on time can result in the court dismissing your lawsuit — speak to your medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible about obtaining an expert witness.