Proving that a healthcare professional committed malpractice is no small undertaking. It requires extensive knowledge of medical matters, evidence of negligence, and proof of the various damages sustained. Here in Florida, malpractice claims also require the testimony of an expert witness.
A medical expert witness provides the court with their professional opinion. This opinion sheds light on the matter in dispute and shows a pivotal link between the medical provider’s conduct and the plaintiff’s injuries. The testimony of an expert witness is an integral part of the plaintiff’s legal strategy.
This testimony provides an objective opinion on whether professional standards of care were breached and if another doctor or practitioner with comparable training and credentials would have done the same under similar circumstances.
What Is an Expert Witness?
Florida Statute 766.202 defines a medical expert as a person who is duly engaged in the practice of his/her profession and holds a healthcare professional degree and a valid license. The law is specific regarding the qualifications needed to act as an expert in a Florida medical malpractice case.
Qualifying as a Medical Expert Witness in Florida
By law, a person may not give expert testimony concerning the prevailing professional standard of care unless they have performed a comprehensive review of the relevant medical records and meet the following criteria:
In order to provide medical expert testimony, general practitioners must have spent time during the past five years in the following areas:
- Consultation as a general practitioner
- Active clinical practice
- Instructing students at an accredited health professional school or accredited residency program in the general practice of medicine; or
- A research program in the practice of medicine with a teaching hospital or an accredited medical school
To serve as an expert witness, a specialist must work in a similar field as the defendant named in the malpractice case. In other words, a podiatrist cannot attest to the alleged negligence of an obstetrician.
In addition, the specialist must have devoted professional time during the last 3 years:
- Having an active clinical practice or consulting in the same specialty
- Instructing students in the same specialty in an accredited health professional school or accredited residency or clinical research program; or
- A clinical research program that is affiliated with an accredited health professional school or accredited residency or clinical research program in the same specialty
In medical malpractice cases against hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities, a person may provide expert testimony on standard of care if they have significant knowledge, by way of their experience and training, concerning medical institutions of the same type.
The Role of Expert Witnesses in a Medical Malpractice Case
Testimony from an expert witness is essential to prove medical malpractice occurred. Their testimony will help illustrate how the defendant deviated from the accepted standard of care.
After evaluating the material facts of the medical negligence case, including witness testimony and relevant records, an expert witness will prepare written reports and give expert testimony before the court. The opinion of a medical expert witness can help your legal counsel assess the strength of a case before filing a lawsuit.
Depending on the allegations at hand, your attorney may need to retain several experts with medical sub-specialties. Take, for example, a claim arising from a delayed cancer diagnosis. Your lawyer may call upon the expert testimony of an oncologist, a pathologist, and even a psychologist who can establish the extent of your emotional pain and suffering.
While medical experts draw upon their own training, experience and knowledge, they may also cite academic publications or industry standards to bolster their findings.
In short, the strength of medical expert testimony can make a world of difference in the outcome of your claim.
Win Your Case By Proving Medical Negligence in Florida
If you suffered injury because of the negligent actions of a healthcare provider, the law firm of Kogan & DiSalvo is poised to help. We have the resources to retain medical experts who can strengthen your claim. Discuss your circumstances with a Florida medical malpractice attorney today. The initial consultation is free, and there are no attorney fees unless we win compensation in your case.