There is no decision to be made about whether or not to have a healthcare expert involved in a medical malpractice lawsuit in Virginia – such a suit cannot be mounted without expert medical opinion.

The idea is that, when determining if malpractice occurred, we compare a healthcare provider’s actions to what other healthcare providers consider reasonable and wise in that situation. Therefore, one of those healthcare providers should be the one making the comparison. It is also necessary in proving malpractice that a medical expert identify that the treatment provided caused harm to the patient.

With that settled, however, the topic becomes more complicated.  Expert testimony plays a vital role in establishing negligence and determining the outcome of the case. Medical experts help evaluate the actions of defendants and determine whether the standard of care was breached.

In this article, we explore the significant role of experts in medical malpractice lawsuits in Virginia and how their testimony can influence the outcome of a case.

Proving Malpractice with Expert Testimony: The Standard of Care

Role of Experts: Establish the Standard of Care

In order to prove medical malpractice, a plaintiff must prove that the accused healthcare provider violated the standard of care. That means they did not do what their peers collectively consider to be the reasonable and prudent thing to have done in the situation. Another way to describe the standard of care is as the level of care and skill that a reasonably competent healthcare provider would provide in a similar situation.

Expert witnesses, typically healthcare professionals with expertise in the relevant field, are called upon to establish the standard of care in a Virginia medical malpractice lawsuit. They provide testimony based on their knowledge and experience to explain what a competent healthcare provider should have done in the specific circumstances of the case.

Role of Experts: Proving a Breach of Standard of Care

With the standard of care identified, experts in medical malpractice lawsuits help establish whether the healthcare provider breached that standard – also described as committing negligence. Through their testimony, experts identify malpractice by identifying how what was actually done differed from what should have been done. In doing so they may provide detailed analysis and opinions on the actions or omissions of the healthcare provider involved.

Proving Causation and Damages with Expert Testimony

Role of Experts: Connect Negligence to Harm

Expert testimony is also required in Virginia to establish causal link between the healthcare provider’s negligence and the patient’s injuries or damages. The expert analyzes medical records, test results, treatment provided or needed, symptoms, and other relevant evidence to determine whether the provider’s actions or omissions directly caused the harm suffered by the patient. Without an expert’s testimony tying the damages and harm to the treatment provided, the elements of malpractice would not have been proven.

What Constitutes an Expert Witness?

Importance of Qualified Experts

In Virginia, expert witnesses in medical malpractice cases must meet specific qualifications, and proving these qualifications is a technical matter. Expert witnesses should be healthcare professionals who are licensed and practicing in the same field or specialty as the defendant healthcare provider, and in Virginia they must have an understanding of the standard of care as accepted in the Commonwealth. In many fields of medicine or dentistry the standard of care these days is considered consistent throughout the United States, so often an expert who has practiced in another state can be qualified in Virginia.

Experienced Legal Representation

Role of Experts: Requires Legal Expertise

Although it is a given that medical expert(s) must participate in a medical or dental malpractice case in Virginia, getting the most out of that participation is the job of the malpractice lawyer.  Navigating the complexities of medical malpractice lawsuits in Virginia is not a simple matter and requires attorneys who understand both the medicine and the medical experts’ role in the legal proceeding.

Malpractice attorneys identify appropriate expert witnesses, and work closely with them to analyze the case and the theories of malpractice. They work with experts to develop case and trial materials to support and explain the testimony, and it is the lawyer’s job to maximize the effectiveness of the expert’s testimony in court. This requires focused knowledge and experience in medical cases involving malpractice.

Medical experts play a crucial role in this process. At the end of a case the jury will be asked whether a malpractice defendant breached the standard of care, and whether doing so caused injury to the plaintiff.  Without clear and convincing testimony from the medical experts, the jury may not be able to come to a definitive conclusion.

If you have been a victim of medical malpractice in Virginia, consult a lawyer with the relevant experience.  Wallace Wason, PLLC can help you navigate the complexities of the legal process and work with expert witnesses to build a strong case. Contact us today at (703) 638-7717 to schedule your free case evaluation.

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