Using an Expert Witness in a Medical Malpractice Case

If you are considering filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in Ohio, you will almost certainly need to hire an expert witness to evaluate your case and testify in court.

In all but a few medical malpractice cases, Ohio law requires that the plaintiff present expert testimony to prove that the treatment provided by a medical professional fell below the standard of care.

What Is an Expert Witness?

Medical malpractice cases often involve complicated procedures. Expert witnesses will explain to the judge or members of the jury complex medical concepts so they can make a fair ruling on the case. A good expert witness will understand the procedure, be able to clearly explain the defendant’s error, and do so in a way that will be understood by jurors who do not have medical training.

An expert utilized in this capacity is qualified to offer an opinion in a medical malpractice case that will help the jury make sense of the factual testimony presented. Fact witnesses are not permitted to express their opinions at trial; they may only testify as to facts that they saw or heard. Expert witnesses, by contrast, are allowed to express their opinions about an issue in controversy.

To establish both the standard of care and that a medical professional deviated from it, a victim of medical malpractice must present expert testimony that establishes:

  • The relevant standard of care;
  • A breach of that standard; and
  • That the breach led directly to the victim’s injuries.

Ohio does recognize an exception to the expert witness requirement in cases that are so clear that a layperson can understand that the medical professional was negligent. For example, if a surgeon operates the wrong limb or leaves a surgical implement inside the patient’s body, expert testimony is not required because even a layperson could understand that these actions are negligent.

Otherwise, Ohio law requires a medical expert to explain to the jury what should have been done, how the medical provider failed to do what should have been done, and how that negligence caused injuries to the victim.

In addition to having an expert testify at trial, Ohio also requires that a medical malpractice victim include an Affidavit of Merit with their Complaint. The Affidavit of Merit must certify that an expert has reviewed the victim’s allegations and believes, to a reasonable degree of medical probability and certainty, that the defendant was negligent. In many cases, the expert who testifies will also provide the Affidavit of Merit, but this is not a requirement.

Who Can Be an Expert Witness in a Medical Malpractice Case?

In some cases, the best expert witness is a victim’s subsequent treating physician. If your first surgeon botched a medical procedure and you went to a different surgeon to repair it, the second surgeon would be an excellent expert to testify about the first surgeon’s error. The second surgeon will have a very clear understanding of the first surgeon’s error and its impact on you.

Unfortunately, in all too many cases, the second surgeon will have no interest in becoming involved in a medical malpractice case. Other times, there is no second surgeon. In these situations, your medical malpractice lawyer will search for a knowledgeable and reputable expert to review the case and offer an opinion about the cause of your injuries.

Expert Witness Qualifications

Your success at trial will often depend on the testimony of your expert witness(es). When hiring an expert witness, you need someone who is licensed, devotes ¾ of their professional time to the active clinical practice of medicine or to teaching at an accredited university, and who practices in a similar specialty as the medical malpractice defendant. If the defendant is board certified, the expert must also be board certified.

Robenalt Law Works with Expert Medical Witnesses to Fight for Justice

Medical malpractice cases are complex, high-stakes, and vigorously contested. If you or someone you love was a victim of medical malpractice, you need a skilled, experienced, and aggressive attorney on your side who will fight for your right to compensation.

At Robenalt Law, we have the experiences, resources, and expertise to take on your case, and win. We work with a network of medical experts who review medical malpractice cases, write Affidavits of Merit, and testify at trial on behalf of our clients.

Learn more about the medical malpractice cases we take on, get answers to Frequently Asked Questions, and contact us today to schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your case.

Tom Robenalt started his litigation career representing doctors and hospitals at a large firm in Cleveland. For the past 25 years, he has used that experience to help victims and the families of those injured by negligent health care providers.

Categories: Medical Malpractice