What is the Role of an Expert Medical Witness?Amy Nutt
February 17, 2009 — 915 views
Medicine is something that enters into our daily activities without us even thinking about it. You don't consider how your muscles are working or where your food goes after you eat it, but all this can be valuable information in a court case. That's where expert medical witnesses come in.
An expert medical witness is someone with medical training who is prepared to testify in a case. General practicioners are not usually considered for this type of testimony, lawyers prefer to go to specialists who can really delve into the specifics of the matter at hand. That means it's not uncommon to see neurologists, plastic surgeons and even oncology specialists on the witness stand.
What a Medical Witness Does Basically, an expert medical witness has to review the case history and give his or her professional opinion. In some cases, examination of the person in question is also required, depending on the type of court case. At the actual trial, the doctor or specialist will take the witness stand and be cross-examined to help provide clarity on the facts. The expert medical witness should have no connection to anyone in the courtroom, since bias could be used against him or her.
When a doctor is contacted by an attorney, he or she will need to do a consult with the lawyer to determine if they are a good fit for the case. Since being on the stand means you are under oath, it's a very serious position.
When Medical Witnesses are Needed There are all manner of court cases and trials that require experts in the medical field to testify. The majority will be in the case of a malpractice charge and may require independent examination of the patient or an autopsy if the person is deceased. Malpractice can be very serious, so the use of expert witnesses is vital in finding a verdict that is true and fair.
Other cases are not as obvious. Expert medical witnesses may be called on to testify at a trial dealing with abuse or homicide, where it is necessary to present facts on the damage done. In other trials, the expert may be required to testify as to common medical procedures or any manner of disease information. This is an area that can often make or break a case, which is why it is so important to have good expert witnesses.
Where to Find Expert Medical Witnesses To ensure that the truth is presented at the trial, it's important for the lawyer to choose an expert medical witness who is not a professional witness, but an actual practicing physician. There are some doctors who no longer practice, but earn a living by testifying and while this can be acceptable in some cases, it will look far better to have a - doctor on the stand.
There are entire directories dedicated to medical experts who are willing to testify. It can be handy to take a look at these lists and get an idea for what is available, or you can simply select a medical professional in your area and approach them with an offer. This is most likely to produce an authentic result, of course, and can be preferable to a more seasoned witness.
Expert medical witnesses are necessary in many court cases to provide a testimony that will help clarify the actual events. Either side in the case can hire a medical expert and often both sides will, to help prove their case. Either way, a witness with this type of professional knowledge can be invaluable to the case.