Medical negligence trials can last up to several years, depending on the nature of each case. In many cases, medical negligence trials are complex and difficult to prove. Medical negligence laws have strict prerequisites in place in order for a plaintiff to succeed to win damages. The plaintiff is typically responsible for providing the initial burden of proof. In other words, the plaintiff must show sufficient evidence that the negligence of the defending party was responsible for the harm incurred.
Preparing for Medical Negligence Trials
The most arguably difficult aspect of medical negligence trials is the process of preparing for the trial to take place. This process involves months or even years of gathering evidence and investigating the details of each case. In order to win a case, plaintiffs must prove medical negligence beyond a reasonable doubt. Finding factual, steadfast evidence can often be difficult.
Medical Negligence Trial Witnesses
In most cases, the involved parties in medical negligence trials must obtain the testimony of expert witnesses. On behalf of the plaintiff, expert witnesses typically testify that the defending medical professional or entity failed to meet the standard of care set forth in the particular medical field. On behalf of the defendant, expert witnesses may discuss that the plaintiff
Establishing Medical Negligence
In order to establish medical negligence, the plaintiff must prove that:
- There was a standard of care that applied to the plaintiff-defendant relationship. The standard of care dictates how physicians and patients should treat one another, as well as what types of medical actions a physician should take during the course of diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up.
- The defending party breached the standard of care by failing to act accordingly. An expert medical witness plays a large role in defining and discussing the industry’s standard of care. Expert witnesses can also provide insight into how a non-negligent medical professional would have acted in a similar situation.
- The plaintiff suffered injury or other harm as a direct result of the defendant’s medical negligence. This typically involves providing extensive evidence of economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages may include medical records of injuries and additional treatment and financial records of lost wages. Non-economic damages include non-measurable harm such as loss of enjoyment, mental anguish, and pain and suffering.
Medical Negligence Trial Process
Once the pre-trial phase is completed, medical negligence trials can begin. Depending on a number of factors such as the complexity of the case, the trial may last anywhere from hours to weeks. Medical negligence trials include selecting a jury and presenting the arguments of each party. Both parties have the opportunity to question each of the testifying witnesses.
This process begins by selecting a jury from a pool of individuals serving as potential jurors. This selection process is referred to as voir dire. This process varies depending on the courtroom. In some cases, judges may allow attorneys to ask questions directly to potential jurors. In other cases, the judges may conduct his or her own questioning based on questions submitted by the parties in writing.
Opening statements are presented after the selection of the jury. Opening statements consist of an overview of the case from each party. During this stage, attorneys will typically provide the jury with a summary of what to expect from testifying witnesses.
Case in Chief
After opening statements, the plaintiff’s attorney presents the plaintiff’s case in chief. During this stage, the plaintiff will attempt to establish medical negligence on the part of the defendant. This stage of medical negligence trials will often call expert witnesses to testify. After the case is presented in full, both parties offer their closing statements.
Deliberation and Verdict
Varying jurisdictions have differing rules for the number of jurors that must reach an agreement. During the deliberation process, juries are typically permitted to submit written questions to the judge or attorneys. Based on the jury’s decision, the judge will allocate damages if the verdict is in the plaintiff’s favor. Economic, non-economic, and punitive damages may be awarded.
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“Burden of Proof.” Legal Information Institute. Cornell University Law School, 19 Aug 2010. Web. 25 Sep 2013. <http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/burden_of_proof>.
Goldberg, Barbara. “Protecting the Integrity of the Medical Malpractice Trial.” New York Law Journal. ALM Media Properties, 18 Dec 2012. Web. 25 Sep 2013. <http://www.newyorklawjournal.com/PubArticleNY.jsp?id=1202581746109&Protecting_the_Integrity_of_the_Medical_Malpractice_Trial&slreturn=20130825060846>.