In a medical malpractice lawsuit filed against a doctor or other healthcare professional, it is critical for a medical expert to be involved to explain that a patient is owed a duty of care and that the medical professional breached that duty of care. In fact, having a member of the same profession explain that another physician would have taken different actions under the same set of circumstances goes a long way toward showing a judge and jury that the physician violated the standard of care of the profession, which establishes medical negligence.
Medical terminology can be complicated, and the facts surrounding medical issues are generally too complex for laypeople to fully comprehend. Therefore, a medical expert’s opinion and testimony makes it easier for a jury to understand how a medical professional deviated from the standard of care and how that medical negligence led to a patient’s injuries.
The medical expert’s testimony would explain what a competent doctor would have done in the same situation. An expert can do this by referring to medical board guidelines, medical publications, scientific studies, or other sources to help strengthen his or her opinion.
In addition to the fact that a medical expert can help explain what happened and how the doctor’s conduct was negligent, an expert is needed in medical malpractice cases because it’s the law. In Virginia, medical experts are required to be involved in malpractice cases from the very beginning. In fact, a patient will not have a valid case unless a medical expert reviews the facts and signs a certificate of merit (also known as an affidavit of merit). A certificate of merit is basically a written opinion by the medical expert that states that the physician in question breached the standard of care and that the breach caused the injuries. In our state, this certificate of merit is required before someone can move forward with filing a lawsuit.
If you have additional questions about your potential case and would like to speak to a lawyer who has experience handling medical malpractice cases, please contact our office for a free, no-obligation consultation.