Requirement of Expert Testimony
Expert Testimony in Medical Malpractice Cases
As indicated above, generally, expert testimony is required to prove the
doctor breached the applicable standard of care. This is because such
matters are thought to be outside the scope of knowledge of the average
juror. It goes without saying that the expert must be competent in the
field in which his/her opinion is offered.
In order to examine the role played by the physician/expert, it is first
important to understand the duties of a physician. While each state varies
in the wording employed in jury instructions, a typical instruction dealing
with a physician’s duty reads as follows:
“In performing professional services for a patient, a physician has
the duty to have that degree of learning and skill ordinarily possessed
by reputable physicians, practicing in the same or similar locality and
under similar circumstances. The further duty of the physician is to use
the care and skill ordinarily exercised in like cases by reputable members
of the profession practicing in the same or similar locality under similar
circumstances, and to use reasonable diligence and his or her best judgment
in the exercise of skill and the application of learning, in an effort
to accomplish the purpose for which the physician is employed. The failure
to fulfill any such duty is negligence.”
What is the Role of an Expert Witness?
It is the expert witness that informs the jury and court, among other things,
what the alleged errant doctor did, or omitted to do, which varied from
the minimal standards accepted by reputable members of the profession.
Additionally, the expert witness often provides the court and jury with
vital information as to causation. In other words, the expert opines that
as a result of the physician’s acts or omissions (which fell below
the standard of care) the plaintiff sustained injuries of a particular
nature. The expert explains how the errant doctor’s acts and omissions
caused the injury sustained by plaintiff. Lastly, the expert should shed
light on the damages sustained by plaintiff.
A good expert distills complicated medical terminology into easy to understand
concepts and principles. This is not to suggest that the expert “runs
the trial” in a medical malpractice action. Far more is involved.
However, the expert does play an important role.
Contact Scarlett Law Group to Learn More
If you or someone you love has been injured by the negligent, careless
or insufficient actions of a medical professional, you should waste no
time in contacting the San Francisco personal injury attorneys at Scarlett
Law Group. We offer free consultations!
Call now at (415) 688-2176.