TLF Logo
Call To Schedule A Free Consultation

The Lawrence Firm Blog

Expert Witnesses in Medical Malpractice Cases: Their Role and Importance

Expert Witness Testimony

People typically trust that doctors and medical professionals will always provide proper care and keep their best interests in mind when treating them. Unfortunately, some medical professionals can act negligently and disregard the care and safety of the patient they’re treating. When this happens, you may be able to pursue a medical malpractice claim against the negligent doctor, nurse, or other medical professional(s). 

A medical malpractice case is a complex legal battle that often requires the legal skill, resources, and knowledge of an experienced medical malpractice attorney. At TLF: The Medical Injury Law Firm, our attorneys understand the challenge of representing clients in medical malpractice cases. One of these challenges is proving that the doctor or other healthcare professional did not exercise the standard duty of care that a professional in the same or similar circumstances would have provided. That is where an expert witness comes in. 

When you work with the Northern Kentucky and Ohio medical malpractice attorneys at TLF: The Medical Injury Law Firm, you can trust that your legal team will fight aggressively for your rights and ensure that those at fault are held responsible for their actions. Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals have an enormous task when caring for their patients. Even a minor slip-up can have catastrophic consequences for a patient. 

To discuss your medical malpractice claim with one of our compassionate attorneys, call TLF: The Medical Injury Law Firm at (800) 698-4054 or complete our online intake form today.

What is an Expert Witness in a Medical Malpractice Case?

In a medical malpractice case, an expert witness is an individual with specific knowledge, experience, or training in a particular medical field relevant to the case they’ve been called to testify for. A medical expert witness can provide their opinions, especially regarding their field’s medical standard of care. An expert witness can also offer insight into the defendant’s actions and the victim’s injuries and damages. 

Most medical malpractice lawsuits are extremely difficult litigations and are challenging for the plaintiff to win. Expert testimony regarding the standard of care, causation and damages is required in a medical negligence case. In other words, an expert physician, nurse or other medical professional is required tor prove that the defendant acted negligently when providing care. When it comes to causation, a physician is required to testify that a medical provider’s negligence was the cause of a given injury. 

The Different Types of Expert Witnesses in Medical Malpractice Cases

Medical malpractice expert witnesses can come from many different professional backgrounds. The most common medical expert witnesses are:

  • Medical experts: A medical expert is usually a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional who can testify on the medical standard of care in a certain medical specialty and give insight into whether the defendant’s actions fell below the medical standard. A doctor’s opinion on causation is required. A variety of medical experts can be used to offer opinions on damages. 
  • Vocational experts: A vocational expert can give their opinion on the victim’s ability to work and earn a living with their injuries. They can also provide insight into their lost earning capacity and future employment opportunities. 
  • Economic experts: An economic expert can analyze the victim’s financial losses, like lost wages and earning capacity and the cost of the required medical care. They can also explain the economic impact of the injuries and damages to the court and offer opinions on adequate compensation. 
  • Life care planners: These experts can share insight into the victim’s future medical needs and estimate how much their future medical treatments will cost as well as explaining in detail the long-term effects the victim’s injuries will likely create.

Qualifications for Expert Witnesses in Medical Malpractice Cases

When your attorney chooses an expert witness for a medical malpractice case, they’ll find a medical professional who works in the same field as the defendant. A medical expert witness must be familiar with the situation that occurred and the medical standard of care. A medical malpractice witness does not necessarily have to work as a practicing doctor; it can also be a professor teaching at a medical school. 

As mentioned above, expert witnesses can work in several different professions as long as they meet the state’s qualifications for an expert witness. Most states have their own set of requirements when approving expert witnesses. 

According to the Federal Rule of Evidence 702, a witness who has met expert qualifications based on their knowledge, experience, skill, education, or training can testify with an opinion on if:

  • The testimony is based on sufficient data and facts.
  • Their scientific, technical, or specialized knowledge will help provide an understanding of the facts.
  • They have reliably applied the methods and principles to the facts of the case.
  • Their testimony is the product of reliable methods and principles.  

Qualifications in Northern Kentucky and Ohio for Expert Witnesses 

An expert witness in a medical malpractice case must meet certain requirements established within the state they are testifying. In Kentucky, a medical malpractice expert witness must meet the qualifications outlined in Kentucky Revised Statute 702. An expert witness in Kentucky can provide their opinion if their testimony is based on sufficient facts and data, it’s the product of reliable methods and principles, and they’ve applied those methods and principles to the facts of the case. 

Ohio has more in-depth laws regarding the qualifications of expert witnesses. According to Ohio Revised Code Section 2743.43, medical malpractice witnesses in Ohio must meet the following criteria in order to provide expert testimony on liability issues:

  • Licensed to practice surgery and medicine, osteopathic medicine and surgery, or podiatric medicine and surgery by any state’s medical board or licensing authority.
  • Devote three-fourths of their professional time to active clinical practice or surgery, podiatric medicine and surgery, osteopathic medicine and surgery, or to its instruction at an accredited university.
  • The expert practices in the same or similar medical specialties as the defendant. The court will NOT permit medical expert testimony against a defendant who does not work in a different medical specialty. The testimony will only be allowed if the medical expert can prove that both medical fields have similar standards of care, the two medical specialties are similar, and they have knowledge in both specialties.
  • The expert is certified in a certain specialty recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties or the American Board of Osteopathic Specialties and has acknowledged expertise and training related to the particular medical issue.  

The Importance of Establishing the Credibility of Expert Witnesses

Expert witnesses are crucial to pursuing lawsuits like medical malpractice cases. Judges and jury members are more likely to trust an expert witness due to their authority and credibility. Expert witness testimonies often carry more weight as a qualified professional in the medical field or other specialized fields, especially when the information they’re providing goes beyond the scope of common knowledge. It’s critical that an expert witness is able to clearly and easily explain and communicate complex ideas, which helps strengthen their credibility. 

How Expert Witnesses Can Shape Legal Outcomes

At TLF: The Medical Injury Law Firm, our Covington, Dayton, and Cincinnati medical malpractice attorneys understand the importance of a qualified expert in proving liability in medical malpractice cases. Since a medical malpractice lawsuit involves extensive knowledge and understanding of medical procedures and care, an expert witness can break it down in a way that the jury and the judge can easily understand. 

The testimony of medical experts is crucial when establishing negligent actions occurred. A medical expert witness will:

  • Explain the standard of care required in that situation and that the defendant’s actions failed to meet that standard.
  • Prove that the defendant’s breach of duty of care most likely caused the victim’s injuries.
  • Explain the seriousness of the victim’s injuries and the extent of future medical treatments.

Providing Informed Opinions Based on Their Experience and Expertise

An expert witness in a medical malpractice case should work or have worked in the same medical field as the defendant. For example, if your medical malpractice lawsuit is for birth injuries, the expert witness should work in obstetrics.

Medical professionals used as expert witnesses are often considered highly qualified in their field. To be considered an expert, a doctor or healthcare professional must have years of experience working in that specialty, which also helps strengthen their credibility. They can give examples of similar scenarios where they acted differently, following the required standard of care, which led to their patient being properly treated. 

Educating the Court About Medical Standards

One of the medical experts’ most important responsibilities as witnesses in malpractice cases is explaining the medical standard of care. They can provide specific insight into the level of care patients should receive and explain how that lack of care led to injuries. 

Everyone in the medical profession is expected to provide their patients with a certain level of care. An expert witness can give insight into what an equally competent doctor or medical professional would have done in the same situation the defendant presented. 

For example, if a plaintiff alleges their doctor’s negligence led to a cancer misdiagnosis. The medical expert can testify to what an equally trained doctor would have done in that same situation. If the defendant’s misdiagnosis was due to not running standard diagnostic tests, the expert witness could prove that they failed to meet the standard of care. 

Proving Negligence Occurred

Like all personal injury cases, medical malpractice hinges on negligent actions. The expert witness testimony is responsible for proving that the defendant was negligent, which led to the plaintiff’s injuries. 

Your Northern Kentucky or Ohio medical malpractice lawyer will work with medical experts to establish that the four elements of medical negligence occurred. Those four elements, also called the four D’s of negligence, are listed below:

  1. Duty: Medical professionals have a legal responsibility, or duty, to follow standard procedures when caring for patients. Doctors and healthcare providers should refer their patients to a specialist if they cannot perform this duty.
  2. Deviation: When a doctor or healthcare professional fails to treat a patient with the same care that an equally qualified professional would provide, they have deviated from the standard of care. Deviation is also known as breach of duty. Some examples of deviation are prescribing the wrong medication, missing a diagnosis, performing the wrong surgery, and failing to warn a patient of the risks associated with a procedure. 
  3. Damages: Your attorney and medical expert will prove that the defendant’s deviation led to the plaintiff’s injuries. Not all injuries need to be physical. They can also be psychological or financial.
  4. Direct Causation: An expert witness can testify that the doctor’s negligence directly led to the victim’s injuries. Had they not acted negligently and followed the standard of care, the patient would not have been injured. 

Do All Medical Malpractice Cases Require an Expert Witness?

Not all medical malpractice cases need an expert witness.Cases that don’t require an expert witness often fall under the “res ipsa loquitor” rule, Latin for “things speak for itself.” When a medical malpractice case falls under this rule, no one other than the doctor or healthcare provider could have been responsible for the injuries or harm. 

Common Medical Malpractice Cases That Require an Expert Witness

As a general rule, most all medical negligence cases require medical expert testimony. Common medical malpractice cases that the attorneys at TLF: The Medical Injury Law Firm have represented and worked with medical experts include those involving: 

  • Surgical errors: A surgical expert can testify that the surgeon deviated from the standard of care when performing the procedure, which caused the patient’s injuries. 
  • Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis: An expert can testify if a doctor failed to make an obvious diagnosis and if that lack of diagnosis caused harm. 
  • Birth injuries: An obstetrics expert can testify whether the delivering doctor followed proper protocols before, during, or after delivery. If they did ignore protocol, the expert witness can show the negligent actions caused the birth injury. 
  • Anesthesia errors: An anesthesiologist expert can provide insight into how anesthesia should be administered and maintained to avoid harm. If the anesthesiologist on trial did not follow those protocols correctly, they can prove medical negligence. 
  • Medication errors: Pharmacists and doctors can testify regarding an improper dosage or incorrect medication that harms a patient. 

How Can the Attorneys at TLF: The Medical Injury Law Firm Help with A Medical Malpractice Claim

The medical malpractice attorneys at TLF: The Medical Injury Law Firm have over 50 years of experience handling medical and personal injury cases for residents throughout Northern Kentucky and Ohio. In addition to our knowledgeable team of attorneys, we also have medical personnel on staff to assist with all of our medical malpractice cases.  

As a law firm that has worked extensively in medical malpractice litigation, TLF has developed a reputation throughout the medical community and established relationships with many leading medical experts throughout Kentucky and Ohio. Our experience allows us to take on cases that many other law firms would turn down due to their complexities.

Contact the Ohio and Northern Kentucky Medical Malpractice Attorneys at TLF Today

If you have a medical malpractice case, contact the experienced Northern Kentucky and Ohio attorneys at TLF: The Medical Injury Law Firm. With over 50 years of experience, you can trust that your medical malpractice attorney will fight relentlessly for your rights and ensure the responsible party pays for their actions. 

To schedule a free consultation with one of our medical malpractice attorneys, call TLF: The Medical Injury Law Firm today. You can reach our Ohio law office at (513) 651-4130, our Kentucky law office at (859) 578-9130, or toll-free at (800) 698-4054. We look forward to hearing from you.


You Pay No Fees Unless We Win!

We are happy to offer a free consultation to evaluate your case. If you hire us as your legal counsel, we will represent you on a contingency-fee basis. You will pay no attorneys’ fees unless we recover financial damages.