USE OF EXPERTS IN MEDICAL NEGLIGENCE CASES
Under the law in California, and practically every other state or jurisdiction, proof of liability (negligence) against a healthcare provider requires expert testimony regarding both the applicable standard of care and causation of the negligent act to the injury. In most cases, an expert will be retained in the same, or very similar field of expertise, as the medical provider that provided the alleged negligent care. The expert witness therefore provides evidence to establish that the health care provider did cause the bad outcome. Remember, in most medical negligence lawsuits, the patient (plaintiff) has the burden of proving that the defendant healthcare provider did not act as a reasonably prudent person would have acted under the circumstances. Thus, the need to use expert(s).
The issue of causation is generally beyond the basic knowledge of jurors, therefore also the need for experts. In a medical negligence action, the law is well settled that causation must be proven within a reasonable degree of medical certainty based upon competent expert testimony. Causation by the negligent medical provider must be “a substantial factor in causing harm,” more than a remote or trivial factor. An action or inaction by a medical provider is not a substantial factor in causing harm if the same harm would have occurred without the conduct.
In summary, almost all medical negligence cases will require the use of expert witness(es) unless the facts are such an atrocity that no reasonable person could conclude negligence or causation to the contrary. Therefore, plan to retain experts in your medical negligence case.
If you have a potential claim for medical negligence against a healthcare provider, contact the Law Offices of Heiting & Irwin for a free initial consultation.