In many types of cases, expert witnesses may be unnecessary. Cases like contract disputes and even car wrecks often don’t require experts because the disputes are easily within the understanding of laypeople on a jury.
The type of expert testimony plaintiffs must produce
Medical malpractice cases are different. Texas law requires medical malpractice plaintiffs to have one or more qualified experts to explain the medical, nursing, and hospital issues to the judge and jury. At a minimum, the plaintiffs must produce expert testimony at trial on these topics:
∙ The standard of care, which is what the doctor, nurse, or hospital should have done.
∙ How the defendants violated or deviated from the standard of care. In other words, how did they miss the mark and make an error or mistake. Both standard of care and violation testimony can be provided by a qualified doctor, nurse, pharmacist, or other health care provider.
∙ Linking standard of care violation to the harms, losses, and damages of the patient. This is called proximate causation. Under Texas law, this requires two types of specific proof. First, the plaintiff’s injuries were foreseeable to the defendants. Second, the negligent conduct was a cause in fact of the injuries. Only a physician licensed in any state is qualified to provide causation testimony.
∙ The damages to the plaintiffs. Damages are the harms, losses, impairments, and injuries that the plaintiff suffered from the negligence.
Selecting the right number of qualified experts
There are a lot of considerations that go into selection of medical experts. Experienced medical malpractice attorneys, like Painter Law Firm, can manage and develop your case in the right direction.
Some cases require multiple experts, but others may only need one physician expert. The key consideration is whether each proposed medical expert is qualified. Under Texas law, expert witnesses are qualified to testify if they have specific experience directly related to the claims at issue in the medical malpractice lawsuit.
Thus, sometimes a physician in a particular specialty may be able to testify about both causation and the standards of care to physicians in multiple specialties and even nurses. It all comes down to the expert’s specific experience. In other cases, multiple experts are needed.
I’ve seen cases where inexperienced medical malpractice attorneys skimped on not hiring enough experts and ended up having their clients’ cases dismissed. I’ve also seen other cases where attorneys hired more experts than necessary, creating unnecessary expenses that ultimately get paid out of their clients’ settlement or recovery.
At Painter Law Firm, we look for the right balance. We want to invest the resources necessary to hire every expert needed to meet the requirements of Texas law to prove our clients’ cases. We don’t want to hire too many experts, though, because it unnecessarily runs up costs that would end up harming our clients’ bottom line.
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Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas.