In a medical negligence lawsuit, one or more expert witnesses will often testify on behalf of the plaintiff to help the judge and jury understand each unique case. The testimony of an expert witness can provide crucial insight into the nature of the plaintiff’s medical condition and the injuries sustained during the incident in question. An expert witness can also help to determine how the defendant’s medical negligence may have played a role in the incident which led to the plaintiff’s medical negligence claim.
In the United States, laws regarding medical negligence experts vary from state to state. Florida medical negligence expert laws were recently revised to place stricter standards on who is eligible to testify. House Bill 7015 and Senate Bill 1792 aim to align the specialty, knowledge, and expertise of the defending medical professional and the expert witness. With the implementation of these stricter laws, Florida aims to improve to overall quality and fairness of medical negligence case outcomes.
Expert Testimony Purpose
In medical negligence cases across the United States, expert witnesses can often be a determining factor in the outcome of a trial. Expert witnesses are often medical professionals with credible and relevant medical experience and background. When a medical negligence lawsuit arises, the actions of a medical professional, such as a physician, are questioned by the plaintiff and the court.
Typically, an expert witness is obtained by the plaintiff to help prove that the defending medical professional committed negligence that led to unnecessary injury. Expert witnesses contribute to the case by discussing their expertise and medical opinions to the judge and jury. The expert witness’ testimony is then used as a guideline of the standard of care that should have been provided to the plaintiff. Based on this established standard, the court is more equipped to make an educated verdict.
Role of an Expert Witness
In medical negligence cases, expert witnesses are needed to determine:
- The expected protocol, quality of service, and standard of care in the defending physician’s profession
- The actions that would have likely been taken by another reasonably qualified and competent physician, if he or she were in the defendant’s position during the incident in question
- What the defending medical professional should or should not have done given the standard of care and the particular circumstances of the case
- If the actions of the defending physician constituted negligence based on this reasonable standard of care
- If the defendant’s negligence in question was the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries
New Florida Expert Testimony Laws
In July 2013, Florida enacted two new laws that dictate stricter requirements for admitting the testimony of an expert witness. These two laws are House Bill (HB) 7015 and Senate Bill (SB) 1792. Under these new Florida medical negligence expert laws, potential expert witnesses are under closer scrutiny to determine whether or not they are suitable to testify.
House Bill 7015
House Bill 7015 requires that medical experts who wish to testify must have the same medical specialty as the physician who acts as the defendant in a medical negligence case. This way, the expert witness is more likely to define and practice the standard of care that is expected of the medical specialty in which the defending physician practiced during the alleged medical negligence incident.
Expert witnesses with the same specialty as the defendant are more likely to have similar education, training, and resources. Additionally, same-specialty witnesses are more likely to practice medicine using similar techniques and procedures for diagnosing and treating a patient’s medical condition.
Senate Bill 1792
Senate Bill 1792 enacts what is also referred to as the Daubert Standard. The Daubert Standard sets criteria that potential expert witnesses must prove to a judge in order to qualify as a witness. These criteria discuss the specific medical techniques or theories used by the potential medical negligence expert. Essentially, the potential medical negligence expert must prove that he or she has a thorough, sound, and credible understanding of the defendant’s field of medicine.
Potential Florida medical negligence experts must prove that:
- Their personal medical techniques or theories have been tested
- These techniques or theories have been peer reviewed
- These techniques have a low error rate
- These techniques or theories have been generally accepted within the scientific community
Bal, Sonny D. “The Expert Witness in Medical Malpractice Litigation.” Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research. 467.2 (2009): 383-391. Web. 23 Sep. 2013. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2628518/>.
Collins, Richard B., and William T. Krizner. “Expert medical testimony: is there an answer to ‘not only relevant, but reliable’?” Defense Counsel Journal July 1999: 384. Academic OneFile. Web. 23 Sept. 2013.
Jablow, Valerie. “Neurologists issue new guidelines for expert witness testimony.” Trial Mar. 2006: 78+. Academic OneFile. Web. 23 Sept. 2013.