How Medical Professionals Contribute to the Success of Malpractice Litigation
Suffering serious injuries because of a medical professional’s negligence can leave victims with substantial financial, emotional, and physical losses. If you or your loved one were seriously injured because of the actions of a healthcare provider, you might be wondering whether you have grounds to pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit to hold the negligent provider accountable for their actions.
Many people find the legal system to be daunting, and they might worry about how they can prove their injuries were caused by a doctor’s malpractice. Proving a doctor’s actions amounted to medical malpractice requires a depth of understanding of complex medical and legal terminology, which is often beyond the capacity of malpractice victims who are struggling to recover from their injuries.
To gain this type of insight and knowledge, malpractice victims benefit from the legal advice and knowledge of Philadelphia medical malpractice attorneys and the expertise of the medical professionals they consult with. Here is some information from Raynes & Lawn about medical malpractice lawsuits and the role that medical experts play in building a successful case.
- Medical malpractice involves situations where healthcare providers’ negligence causes patient injuries.
- Negligence occurs when treatment falls below the standard of care expected from competent practitioners in the same field and region.
- Gathering and reviewing medical records with a qualified medical expert is essential before filing a lawsuit.
- Medical experts must be board-certified, licensed physicians with expertise in the same field as the defendant. Their opinions must rely on scientifically sound and valid methods accepted by the medical community.
- Attorneys work closely with medical experts, gather evidence, assess damages, and navigate the legal complexities.
Understanding Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice is a legal term that refers to various types of situations in which a medical provider engages in negligence that causes a patient’s injuries and losses. Doctors and other healthcare professionals must deliver treatment meeting the standard of care that reasonably competent practitioners in the same field and geographic region would provide under similar treatment scenarios. When a provider’s treatment fails to meet the standard of care, it amounts to negligence.
By itself, medical negligence is not enough to support a malpractice claim. Instead, the plaintiff will have to show that the provider’s medical negligence caused their injuries. Finally, they must prove they suffered actual damages because of the doctor’s medical negligence.
Some common examples of medical malpractice include the following:
- Delayed diagnosis
- Surgical mistakes
- Birth injuries
- Prescription drug errors
- Failure to treat
There are many forms of medical malpractice. Understanding the type of malpractice that occurred in your case is critical, and a Philadelphia medical malpractice attorney working together with a medical expert can help to establish the legal elements.
Importance of Medical Records in Malpractice Lawsuits
Medical records are critical in medical malpractice lawsuits. Before you file a lawsuit, you must gather your medical records and have a medical expert review them with your attorney. Your medical records include important information about your treatment, the actions of your doctor or other healthcare professional, and whether their conduct caused your injuries. Without medical records to support your claim, you won’t have a case.
What Medical Experts Do in Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
To have a medical malpractice lawsuit, you must have a medical expert with relevant experience review your medical records and examine the actions of the provider you believe caused your injuries. Medical experts are physicians in the same field as the defendants and have significant experience and expertise, allowing them to determine the relevant standard of care. Once they determine the standard of care that applied in the particular scenario, the medical expert will compare the treatment the patient received to the standard of care. If the treatment deviated from the standard of care, medical negligence occurred.
Medical experts write expert reports in which they provide opinions based on accepted medical principles. They testify at trial before courts and juries, enabling them to understand complex medical terminology and what happened in the treatment scenario.
Unlike lay witnesses, attorneys can choose the expert witnesses they call to support their legal claims. The attorney will look for medical experts who are qualified to testify about important legal issues and have strong communication skills. Medical experts provide all of the following benefits in medical malpractice lawsuits:
- Providing objective analyses to help the court make informed, evidence-based decisions
- Offering specialized skills, experience, and knowledge in their fields to explain complex procedures, causation, and the standard of care
- Using their expertise to help judges and juries effectively evaluate evidence
- Providing objective background information and building the jury’s understanding of medical principles in context
- Delivering persuasive, evidence-based testimony grounded in generally accepted principles acknowledged by the medical community
- Evaluating potential medical malpractice cases
- Helping attorneys identify potential defenses that might be raised
- Providing an unbiased assessment
- Evaluating the victim’s future medical treatment needs and resulting medical expenses caused by a doctor’s medical malpractice
Who Qualifies as a Medical Expert?
Attorneys can’t call just anyone a medical expert. Instead, a proposed expert must meet specific standards to be qualified to provide expert opinions and testimony in court. Under 40 Pa.C.S. § 1303.512, a medical expert called to testify about a physician’s alleged negligence and the applicable standard of care must meet the following qualifications:
- Be a board-certified, licensed physician
- Practice in or be retired from the same field/specialty as the defendant physician
- Have sufficient training, experience, knowledge, and education to provide credible testimony about the issue
A medical expert doesn’t need to have authored a book on the topic to meet this standard. However, they must have substantial experience, education, and training to be able to effectively analyze and provide an informed opinion based on the evidence.
Since some medical malpractice lawsuits involve fact-specific, narrow issues, it is important to have access to a broad network of prospective experts who can testify about a range of issues. Raynes & Lawn has built an extensive network of medical experts and can help malpractice victims find experts who can help with their cases.
Importance of Impartiality
Medical experts must be impartial and unbiased when they evaluate claims and testify. They should disclose any potential conflicts of interest and provide credible, unbiased reports.
Before a lawsuit can be filed, a medical expert will review the medical records to determine the standard of care and evaluate the defendant’s conduct. This is necessary to figure out whether the doctor’s actions deviated from the standard of care and caused the patient’s injuries and other types of harm.
In some cases, a medical expert will determine the doctor’s care did not deviate from the relevant medical standard of care in the treatment scenario. When this happens, it means the individual will not have a viable malpractice lawsuit. A medical expert must be independent and able to provide an unvarnished and unbiased opinion. While hearing that a potential claim does not have legal merits might not be what someone wants, receiving an unbiased, fair assessment of the claim can help save the person time and money.
Methods Used and Reliability
Experts must rely on methods accepted by the medical community when preparing their reports. These methods must be scientifically sound and valid. If an expert’s opinion is based on unsound methods, it will not be credible. Medical experts need to ensure they base their opinions on reliable principles and sound reasoning when writing expert reports or testifying in court.
While lay witnesses can testify about what they saw, they can’t speculate about the underlying causes of what occurred. They can only speak about what they experienced and answer the questions they are asked. By contrast, experts can testify about more issues than lay witnesses and do not have to have witnessed what occurred.
Experts are educated in their areas of specialty and have significant experience, which allows them to build on their knowledge. They review academic literature, review documents from the case, and objectively interpret the facts. This allows them to objectively analyze whether the defendant physician was negligent, and if so, whether the negligence caused the plaintiff’s injuries.
Medical experts must also be good communicators. Even if an expert is thoroughly knowledgeable about their specialty area, that doesn’t mean that they will be able to effectively communicate with a jury. It’s thus important to evaluate the communication skills of a potential expert and how receptive they are to the suggestions of a Philadelphia medical malpractice attorney about how to present themselves and the details of the claim while testifying. When the right medical expert is chosen, they should present compelling testimony that helps the jury and judge understand what happened in easily comprehensible terms.
Conflicting Expert Opinions
Medical malpractice lawsuits often involve conflicting expert opinions. Both the plaintiff and defendant will likely call expert witnesses to support their claims, and these experts might have conflicting views of the evidence and what it means. This can make it more challenging for a jury to assess each expert’s credibility and the weight to give their opinions. The court will have a role in assessing the conflicting expert testimony and evidence and deciding based on the reliability and strength of each opinion.
Your medical malpractice lawyer will cross-examine defense experts and challenge their opinions. Cross-examination involves questioning the methods the expert used, the assumptions they made, or the basis of their opinions. Similarly, the defense lawyer will cross-examine the medical experts you call to testify. Cross-examination is meant to test the credibility and reliability of an expert’s opinion so that the court and jury can assess what is presented.
Importance of a Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Attorney
Medical malpractice victims are much likelier to succeed in their claims when they retain experienced, competent medical malpractice attorneys versus trying to handle their cases themselves. An experienced malpractice lawyer should have the legal knowledge and litigation experience to navigate the complex legal issues involved in these types of lawsuits.
A malpractice attorney understands that thorough preparation is critical in building a successful claim. They will work closely with relevant medical experts and investigators to understand what occurred, determine liability, and develop a strategy to build the strongest possible case. They can present compelling arguments in court, call witnesses, and challenge the witnesses called by the defense. Experienced attorneys can also negotiate with the defense counsel and insurance companies to try to secure a fair settlement for their clients.
An experienced medical malpractice lawyer can provide the following benefits:
- Fairly assess and analyze the facts of your case
- Consult with medical experts to review your case and obtain expert opinions about the merits of your claim
- Gather comprehensive evidence, including medical records, witness statements, expert reports, and other evidence to build a strong case
- Present evidence to meet the burden of proof for each legal element of medical malpractice
- Properly value your claim
- Negotiate with insurance companies and defense counsel to secure a fair settlement
- File legal documents and motions
- Advise you about the court process and what to expect
- Represent your interests at all times
- Litigate your case through trial if necessary
- Document damages to ensure you get what is fair
When you retain a lawyer, your attorney can handle all of the legal aspects of your case and communicate on your behalf. This provides you with time to focus on your physical and emotional recovery instead of trying to pore over complex documents and handle communications with the insurance company yourself. Working with the right lawyer and expert can help to increase your odds of securing a favorable resolution.
Consult a Medical Malpractice Lawyer in Philadelphia
Dealing with the aftermath of a doctor’s medical malpractice can be overwhelming. When you work with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer at the Philadelphia law firm of Raynes & Lawn, you can attend to your physical recovery while we handle all aspects of your case for you. Our team has more than five decades of litigation experience and has recovered tens of billions of dollars for our clients. We offer free consultation and work on a contingent fee basis, which means you won’t have to pay anything until and unless we recover compensation for you. Call us today for a free case evaluation at 1-800-535-1797.
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