When Does Your Malpractice Case Require an Expert Witness?

Lawsuits will occasionally require an expert witness to testify as part of the trial. These people are generally experts in their respective fields and offer expert details on how something happened or the general standard of care in a particular field. 

These expert witnesses are often used in conjunction with other witnesses to help build a strong case for or against an event’s occurrence. 

The types of cases that use expert witnesses include business malpractice, road accidents, medical analysis, industrial accidents, accounting malpractice, and product liability. Your case may require an expert witness if expert insight into a particular matter will support your argument or line of inquiry. 

What are the Rules for Expert Witness Testimony?

For an expert witness testimony to be applicable in a lawsuit, the witness in question must follow a particular standard. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 702 outlines this standard. 

This standard states that a witness can offer expert testimony if they have sufficient knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education that allows them to offer the court reliable information about a process or procedure. 

Being a subject specialist is not the only requirement for fulfilling the role of expert witness. Other caveats and criteria also exist, such as providing relevant and up to date industry facts and data and having a reliable understanding of principles and methods currently used in their respective fields. 

Furthermore, the witness should have recent experience of applying the principles and methods relevant to the case, and should not have any conflicts of interest regarding the case.

Expert Witnesses for Medical Malpractice 

In cases of medical malpractice, medical expert witnesses are almost always necessary. Regardless of the type of trial for medical malpractice, the details of the case are usually too complex for lay-people on the jury to understand. There may be a lot of industry jargon involved, and it can be difficult for them to determine if someone’s doctor is at fault for a patient’s injury. 

Suppose you are involved in a case that requires a medical expert witness. In that case, it can be useful to have some information ahead of time about why this testimony is important and what to expect from a medical expert witness when they take to the stand. It can also be useful to know who is eligible to serve as one and what you might expect to hear from them. 

Why is a Medical Expert Witness Needed? 

Without a medical expert in a medical malpractice case, the trial may end early- this usually happens when a judge dismisses a case early due to lack of evidence. As a result, it has become decidedly important for trials to incorporate technical information from expert medical witnesses to support an argument. 

In medical malpractice cases in particular, courts have decided that there is too much technical jargon for juries to understand without assistance and in such a short space of time. 

As a result, courts use expert testimonies to support arguments and help jurors understand the case’s complexities. The jury is not required to align with the testimony, but are able to use it as effective reference. 

Who Qualifies as a Medical Expert Witness?

Depending on the state, the rules governing who can qualify as a medical expert witness differ. In general, if the case deals with malpractice within a medical field, you will require some expert testimony from a specialist within the field who is relevant to the case.

A specialist is someone with a combination of academic and practical experience, as well as relevant qualifications. In general medicine, the criteria for who qualifies as an expert witness are far wider. 

In cases like these, doctors and general practitioners are usually deemed reasonable candidates, although some states do incorporate special rules to ensure that medical professionals are dedicating the majority of their time to medical practice. 

When You Don’t Need a Medical Expert Witness

An expert medical witness isn’t usually required when a medical malpractice case is plainly obvious. This rule is known as ‘res ipsa loquitur,’ or “the thing speaks for itself,” in legal terms. 

One example of this might be when a surgeon accidentally leaves a sponge inside a patient they are operating on. 

Other instances where you may not need a witness include cases in which doctors or medical staff clearly had control of the treatment that went off course or where an injury is caused by a medical practitioner’s inability to follow standard protocol. 

It is not advisable to assume your case does not require an expert medical witness in any case- it is always smart to have one on hand that can support your claim.