When the subject of a lawsuit is outside the normal knowledge of a jury, courts require expert testimony. It’s no surprise, then, that medical experts are required by Texas law for medical malpractice cases.
As in all civil cases, it’s the plaintiff’s (patient’s) burden of proof. Thus, one of the first tasks that an experienced medical malpractice attorney has to jump on is hiring one or more experts who will be qualified to explain what happened to a jury.
Texas law has all kinds of requirements that apply to who’s qualified to be an expert in a medical malpractice case. Courts consider licensure, board certification, and experience as significant factors when assessing the qualifications of a potential expert. The key focus is whether the proposed expert has direct experience related to the specific health care at issue in the lawsuit.
With that in mind, there will always be at least one expert physician—or dentist, chiropractor, or podiatrist, if those providers are involved—in a medical malpractice case. Sometimes nurses, therapists, and other types of health care providers may be used to testify about their particular areas of the law.
The plaintiff must present evidence in the form of expert testimony concerning the standard of care (what should be done under the same or similar circumstances), the breach of the standard of care (who messed up and how), proximate causation and damages (how the medical mistakes led to the plaintiff’s specific injuries).
As a Houston, Texas medical malpractice attorney, I’ve worked with countless medical experts during my career. When preparing experts for depositions or trial, I emphasize to them that their testimony doesn’t have to be 100% certain, but it has to be more than perhaps, potentially, or possible. The legal standard is reasonable medical probability, which means more likely than not.
In other words, Texas law for medical malpractice cases isn’t like the criminal standard of beyond a reasonable doubt. Medical experts need to have a scientific basis for their opinions, which includes reviewing the relevant records and considering other possible causes. In the end, though, an opinion of reasonable medical probability or more likely than not will get a plaintiff over the finish line in terms of meeting the expert requirement.
If you’ve been seriously injured because of a medical mistake or error, a top-rated experienced Texas medical malpractice lawyer can help you evaluate your potential claim.