Expert witnesses and your medical malpractice case

When patients are dissatisfied with their doctors or healthcare providers, they may feel justified in filing a medical malpractice claim. However, medical malpractice lawsuits can be complex, and a valid claim requires that a doctor or healthcare provider be negligent when providing care to the patient. Virginia law also has other requirements that must be met, such as certification by an expert witness and filing your claim within the statute of limitations. An experienced medical malpractice lawyer can help you determine the validity of your claim and help make sure these legal requirements are satisfied.

Role of expert witnesses in medical malpractice claims

In medical malpractice cases, the issues can be extremely complicated.  Since a jury must determine whether your doctor was negligent, that jury must be made to understand the medicine. It is easy to see how a jury may have difficulty in cases involving complex procedures and surgeries. For this reason, plaintiffs are required to have medical experts review the medical records in their case.

The only time a plaintiff is not required to obtain expert certification in medical malpractice litigation is when the issue of negligence is simple enough for a jury to understand without clarification or explanation by an expert. Given the complexities of malpractice cases, expert certification is almost always necessary.

The expert retained to review medical records in your case must meet the following requirements.

  • Same or related area of practice. The reviewing expert must demonstrate expert knowledge to the standards of the medical professionals’ specialty or area of practice. In other words, the medical expert witnesses must be experienced and qualified in the same medical specialty or be proficient in the relevant practice or procedures in the case.
  • Review medical records.The expert must review the medical records, including hospital chart notes, appointment records, and care plans.
  • Establish negligence. The expert must then determine whether your doctor or medical care provider breached the standard of care. If so, then your medical care provider was “negligent.”
  • Establish the cause of plaintiff’s harm. If your medical care provider was negligent, the expert then must conclude that this medical negligence caused harm to you, and gave rise to your claim. In addition, the expert must hold his or her opinions to a reasonable degree of medical probability.
  • File a Certificate of Merit. Once your attorney has obtained an expert opinion supporting the claim, your attorney must obtain a statement from the expert certifying that, in the expert’s opinion, the doctor in question was negligent and that the negligence caused the injuries complained of. This “certificate of merit” must be kept privileged absent order from a court for good cause, but is intended to ensure that the claim is brought in good faith.  While the statement is not required before the lawsuit is filed, it is required before the patient’s lawyer requests the court to serve the doctor with the suit. If this requirement is not met, the suit may be dismissed with prejudice, which prevents the claim from being brought a second time.

Once these requirements have been met, you will have a prima facie claim before the court. If your case goes to trial, expert witnesses may also testify to support your negligence claim. The expert testimony is a key element of a medical malpractice lawsuit.

How a lawyer can help with a medical malpractice claim

A skilled medical malpractice attorney can help you navigate the complex legal system, protect your rights, and fight for the compensation you deserve. Your lawyer will handle all aspects of your case, from gathering evidence and consulting with expert witnesses to negotiating with insurance companies and representing you in court, if necessary.

They will also provide you with valuable guidance and support throughout the process, answering your questions, addressing your concerns, and helping you make informed decisions about your case.

In addition to their legal experience, medical malpractice lawyers understand medical terminology and complex medical issues. They know the standards of care that a medical provider must adhere to. They can help you determine whether your healthcare provider’s actions constituted malpractice and work tirelessly to hold them accountable for the harm they’ve caused.

Contact Allen & Allen for personal injury cases involving medical malpractice

An experienced personal injury attorney can help you with the complicated legal requirements involving expert witness testimony and can help you recover full and fair compensation. For a free consultation, call the attorneys of Allen & Allen at 1-866-388-1307 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a consultation.

About The Author: Malcolm “Mic” McConnell is the lead Medical Malpractice attorney at the Allen Law Firm and has nearly 30 years of experience handling cases in a variety of medical specialties. Mic was named the Best Lawyers’ Medical Malpractice Law – Plantiffs “Lawyer of the Year” in 2013 and 2016.

[1] See, e.g., Va. Code Ann. §§ 8.01-20.1; 8.01-243 (discussing the requirements for expert witnesses and the applicable statute of limitations, respectively). .

[2] Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-20.1.

[3] See id.

[4] See Va. Code Ann. §§ 8.01-20.1; 8.01-581.20.

[5] See id

[6] See supra note 2.

[7] See id.