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The Role of Expert Witnesses in Medical Malpractice Cases

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San Jose medical malpractice attorneyIt is no secret that medical malpractice cases can be challenging to investigate and successfully present at trial. Part of this difficulty is due to the fact that nearly every medical malpractice case requires the presentation of expert testimony from a doctor, nurse, or another professional with credentials similar to those of the professional who allegedly committed malpractice. In some rare cases, however, expert testimony is not needed, and it is important to know when such exceptions may apply. A qualified medical malpractice lawyer can help you understand the complexities of your case.

Why Are Experts Needed?

Medical malpractice cases are fairly unique in that they almost always require expert testimony to win. In a car accident case, for example, an expert witness may not be necessary to show that the defendant ran a red light if there are eyewitnesses who can testify to this fact. Similarly, if you are catastrophically injured at work and the available physical evidence clearly points to another person’s negligence as the cause of your injuries, the testimony of a reconstruction expert, engineer, or other experts may not be needed.

In a medical malpractice case, however, the plaintiff must establish that the level of care he or she received from the medical professional fell below the acceptable level of care given the community and the experience of the professional. Establishing the standard of care typically requires the testimony of at least one other medical professional with similar credentials and who is familiar with the claimant’s community. Often, it is useful to call a highly trained, board-certified professional in the same specialty as a witness to explain how your situation should have been handled.

Do I Always Need an Expert?

Some cases, however, involve clear examples of negligence by a medical professional. In certain cases, the court is even permitted to presume negligence on the basis of the legal principle known as “res ipsa loquitur”—a Latin phrase which means “the thing speaks for itself.” This refers to situations in which an injury is presumed to be the result of negligence because such injuries do not typically occur in the absence of negligence. For example, the only way you could be injured by a surgical instrument left inside your body following a surgery is if the surgeon left it there. He or she was the only person using the instrument on or around your person, he or she may be presumed to have been negligent in leaving it inside you. An expert is not likely to be needed to show that such actions fall below the expected standard of care.

Speak With a Medical Malpractice Attorney

If you are have been injured as the result of a mistake by a doctor or another medical professional, an experienced San Jose medical malpractice lawyer can help determine your need for expert witness testimony. Contact the knowledgeable team at Corsiglia McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. and get the guidance you need during a difficult time. Schedule your free initial consultation by calling 408-289-1417 today.

 

Sources:

http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?lawCode=EVID&sectionNum=646.

http://scocal.stanford.edu/opinion/newing-v-cheatham-27904

 

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Corsiglia McMahon & Allard, L.L.P.

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San Jose, CA 95112

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