If you are injured by a medical professional’s negligence, you may be eligible to file a claim for compensation under Florida’s medical malpractice law [Florida Statute § 766.102]. Florida requires that all medical professionals perform their duties in accordance with the normal professional standard of care that a reasonably prudent healthcare professional would have used. To prove the medical professional in question did not abide by the required standard of care, you would need to hire a medical malpractice expert witness.
For help finding an expert witness and for any other aspect of your medical malpractice case in Ft. Lauderdale, give Montero Law Center a call: 954-767-6500.
What is a medical malpractice expert witness?
In a medical malpractice case, a standard of care expert witness is a qualified doctor or healthcare professional who testifies to how the defendant (medical professional) in question violated the standard of care and caused the plaintiff’s (victim) injuries. In addition to testifying, an expert witness may also help in the discovery process and provide the patient’s legal team with expert medical knowledge.
A causation expert (i.e., someone who can prove that the defendant’s negligence was the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries) is not required by law, but can be helpful in strengthening your case. In addition, you may also want to consider hiring a damages expert. This type of expert will be able to show the jury what your injury cost you.
Can any medical professional be an expert witness?
Only standard of care experts can provide testimony about the applicable standards of medical care. Standard of care experts may only testify if they are healthcare professionals, have valid licenses, and:
- Are in the same specialization as the defendant (i.e., a cardiologist cannot testify about a mistake a neurosurgeon made), and
- Have spent the last three years actively practicing, teaching, or taking part in a clinical research program in the same specialization as the defendant (i.e., a professor of neurosurgery could testify about a mistake a neurosurgeon made, but could not testify about a mistake an oncologist made)
The law also requires the medical expert perform a complete review of the relevant medical records [Florida Statute § 766.102(5)].
It is important to note that an expert licensed in another state or in Canada may only testify if the Florida Board of Medicine issues her a valid expert witness certificate.
While standard of care experts must be in the same specialty as the defendant, causation experts can usually testify against any defendant so long as they are certified. An attorney from Montero Law Center can help you decide if a causation expert will be able to testify in your case.
Does Florida law always require an expert witness?
Almost always. Florida law requires that before an injured patient can file a suit in medical malpractice against a healthcare provider, she must conduct a presuit investigation to determine whether are “reasonable grounds” to believe that the defendant violated the standard of care and that the defendant’s negligence was the cause of her injury.
For example, if you believe that a delayed cancer diagnosis led to your loved one’s death, you would need an expert witness to testify that your loved one’s doctor missed the growing tumor on an x-ray and that had he diagnosed it then, your loved one would have lived.
Florida law states that to establish reasonable grounds, the patient must submit a medical opinion from a qualified medical expert stating that such reasonable grounds exist [Fla. Stat. Ann. § 766.203(2)].
Thus, without the aid of a medical expert, a patient cannot even begin a case for medical practice. Usually, a medical expert will examine a patient, review the relevant medical records, and write a report indicating whether she believes there are reasonable grounds to believe that the physician committed malpractice.
Is there an exception for any Florida malpractice cases?
The law does provide an exception in very specific cases. If during surgery, a medical professional leaves a foreign object, such as a sponge, clamp, forceps, surgical needle, or other common surgical device inside a patient, the court will allow such evidence to serve as evidence of negligence without expert testimony [Fla. Stat. Ann. § 766.102(3)(b)]. In cases with such facts, the law does not require an expert to testify because negligence is obvious.
Even in those cases, it is generally better to have a causation expert testify to strengthen your case. A causation expert can testify to how the negligence caused your injury, while a damages expert can explain how the injury may affect you for years to come.
For example, if a surgeon left a surgical needle in your body and caused a blood vessel to rupture, the causation expert can testify that the rupture was the result of the surgical needle and not another condition such as an aneurysm. The damages expert can testify as to how the negligence affected you and will continue to affect you in the future.
So how do I get my case started?
The very first thing you should do is seek legal counsel. As stated above, you cannot even begin your case without the testimony of a certified expert witness and most medical malpractice lawyer have contacts who are expert witnesses.
In addition to finding a certified medical malpractice expert witness, you must also find one who is qualified as your whole case rests on the testimony. The medical malpractice attorneys at Montero Law Center in Ft. Lauderdale have decades of experience helping injury victims get the compensation they need and deserve from negligent defendants.
To discuss your medical malpractice case, contact us today at 954-767-6500.