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The role of an expert witness in medical malpractice cases

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Any patient and his or her family has the right to take legal action over medical malpractice if the patient is a victim of hospital negligence or any form of medical malpractice. It can get difficult at times, however, to determine who should be held accountable for the patient's injuries. Certain standards and a system of tests have been put in place by the legal system in Virginia and throughout the United States to aid lawyers in determining who should be held responsible in cases concerning medical malpractice. However, when all else fails, the court may resort to calling in expert witnesses to help the court come to a conclusion.

An expert witness is a member of the medical profession who is requested to brief the jury on what the defending medical practitioner should have done or should have avoided doing under the given circumstances. An expert witness may also give his or her opinion on whether certain procedures undertaken by the defending party were considered ethical. Hence, in most medical malpractice hearings, it is important to hear the testimony of an expert witness.

Aside from an expert witness, a number of states may oblige patients to get a medical assessment done prior to filing a lawsuit. This medical assessment, more commonly called a certificate of merit, helps confirm that the patient's injuries were indeed a result of a medical professional's negligence. The first step in filing a certificate of merit requires the patient to get a second opinion from a medical expert. Once an expert reviews the patient's medical records and confirms that the original practitioner deviated from the standard medical norms, an attorney can file the certificate of merit.

When it comes to medical malpractice, it may be beneficial to consult an experienced lawyer, who would be able to assess the strengths and weaknesses of a victim's case. With the right legal intervention at the right time, it may be possible for the victims to recover damages that compensate the various financial and economic losses that victims of medical malpractice have to suffer.

Source:, "The Expert Witness in Medical Malpractice Litigation," B. Sonny Bal, Dec. 4, 2008

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