What Is an Expert Witness and Why Do I Need One for My Medical Malpractice Case?

An impactful scene in a courtroom, bustling with a multitude of people, while the focal point remains on the imposing court stand.

Having an expert witness to testify on your behalf in a medical malpractice case can be an invaluable asset. These types of cases usually involve complex medical issues and standards of care that are not easily understood by the average person. This is where an expert witness can be beneficial.

Expert witnesses are qualified individuals with knowledge, training, or experience in a specific field, making them more educated about a particular matter than the average person. They can provide valuable insight into events related to the case and give an informed opinion on the issue in dispute.

If you have a medical malpractice claim, an expert witness can provide information about the standard of care and how this standard was or wasn’t met in your case. Read on to learn more about expert witnesses in medical malpractice cases and why you may need one.

What Is an Expert Witness?

An expert witness is a professional eligible to give expert testimony in a case, as they have significant educational, practical, and legal expertise in the topic. The purpose of having an expert witness is to provide relevant information and explain scientific or technical concepts of the case to help the court make decisions based on facts rather than just emotion.

In medical malpractice lawsuits, expert witnesses will typically be medical experts who specialize in the same type of practice as that at issue. For example, if a neurosurgeon caused a patient’s injury, a good expert witness would be another neurosurgeon or another medical specialist familiar with that practice. In this case, the expert witness should not be a general practitioner, as they do not have the specific knowledge required to make an informed opinion.

Expert witnesses are generally medical professionals who can provide a medical opinion regarding medical negligence, including the standard of care or breach of duty. An expert witness can be a doctor, surgeon, nurse, nurse practitioner, physician’s assistant, or any other healthcare provider qualified to discuss the medical care in question.

Why Are They Necessary for Your Trial?

It’s crucial to have medical experts as witnesses in medical malpractice claims because of the complexity of the medical field. Without them providing testimony, the judge or jury may not understand what happened in the case and why certain aspects matter when determining whether or not medical malpractice occurred.

Here are a few reasons why you need an expert witness for your medical malpractice suit:

They Can Examine the Facts

Expert witnesses can look at the facts and determine if they support your case. They can examine medical records, evaluate medical treatments, and make an informed opinion about what happened.

They can also explain complex medical concepts and medical terminology in layperson’s terms to the court, making it easier for people outside of the medical community to understand how and why medical malpractice may have occurred.

They Can Support or Disprove Claims

Having an expert witness can help prove whether the standard of care was adequate or not met. The expert testimony given by a qualified healthcare professional helps to back up your claims and support them in court, as they are seen as unbiased, objective sources.

Additionally, they can dispute any claims made by the defendant and provide insight into how their actions or inactions could have led to your injury. This can be beneficial when proving that the defendant is responsible for any damages or losses.

They Are an Authoritative Figure

Expert witnesses are seen as credible, authoritative figures by the court, making their opinions more valuable than an average person’s. They are knowledgeable and experienced in their field, making them the perfect source of information for a medical malpractice lawsuit. Their expert testimony can help the judge and jury reach an appropriate decision based on the truth and logical arguments.

They also thoroughly prepare to ensure their opinions are based on facts and reliable information. Expert witnesses should be able to back up their position with evidence from medical literature and defend it in court if needed. Additionally, they only offer opinions that they believe to be true, making their testimony very trustworthy in court.

They Can Serve as Intermediaries

Medical malpractice cases can be confusing and intimidating for the court. Expert witnesses can serve as intermediaries between medical professionals, lawyers, and the court to help them better understand the medical negligence claims in question. They explain complicated medical aspects of a case so that all parties truly understand what happened and why it matters.

While the expert witness only offers medical opinions, they can connect them to general principles and provide sound explanations, translating the medical professional’s perspective into a real-world context for the judge and jurors. Because of this, the court holds expert testimony in high regard and can use it to determine if the standard of care was breached.

They Can Bridge the Gap in Your Claims

By employing an expert witness, you bridge the gap between proving or disproving your claims. An expert witness can provide a credible opinion about the standard of care and whether it was met in your case. This gives your argument more weight, making it easier for the court to determine liability in medical malpractice cases.

Expert witnesses can also fill in the holes in your argument. They provide valuable insight into the damages you have suffered and how they were caused by professional negligence. This helps to strengthen your case and gives you a better chance at getting the compensation you deserve.

Speak with The Pagan Law Firm today to discuss your malpractice claim and find the right expert witness to help support your case.

What Are the Four Elements of Malpractice?

Expert witnesses can be invaluable in proving the four elements of malpractice. These elements are essential to establishing liability in a medical malpractice case.

The four elements of medical malpractice are:

Duty of Care

The first element is to prove that the doctor or other medical professional had a duty of care toward you. An established doctor-patient relationship is the basis of any medical negligence claim. It’s crucial to show that healthcare providers have a professional duty toward you as their patient.

Keep in mind that doctors are not the only medical professionals who can be held liable for medical negligence when you receive medical treatment. Nurses, pharmacists, technicians, surgeons, caregivers, and other healthcare providers can also be accountable if they fail to perform their professional duty. Hospitals, pharmacies, nursing homes, and other medical institutions can also be held responsible for medical malpractice.

Breach of Duty

The second element is to prove that the doctor failed to meet their duty of care. This is done by comparing the medical treatment against what a similarly trained medical professional would have done under similar circumstances.

It’s important to note that medical errors are not the only cause that may constitute medical malpractice. It might be the doctor’s negligence if they did something that no other reasonable healthcare provider would have done or failed to do something that should have been done to prevent physical or emotional harm.

Common examples of medical malpractice include:

  • Misdiagnosis
  • Missed diagnosis
  • Delayed diagnosis
  • Failure to recognize symptoms
  • Wrong medicine prescription
  • Wrong medication dose or administration
  • Surgical mistakes
  • Wrong patient, site, or surgery
  • Improper or lack of medical care
  • Misinterpretation of test results
  • Birth injuries
  • Emergency room errors
  • Performing an unnecessary medical procedure
  • Failure to treat an illness
  • Failure to check a significant health concern
  • Failure to seek additional medical treatment
  • Failure to warn patients of possible risks
  • Failure to obtain the patient’s informed consent
  • Foreign objects left behind the body after surgery
  • Defective medical devices
  • Lack of medical skill or judgment


The third element is proving that medical negligence directly caused or contributed to the patient’s injury or illness. This is often the most challenging element to prove in a medical malpractice claim, and it’s essential to enlist an expert witness to explain how the medical negligence caused or worsened your condition.

It must be demonstrated that you would not have suffered harm if the medical professional had provided reasonable care. Expert witnesses are critical in establishing a causal connection between medical negligence and your injury or illness. Additionally, having an experienced medical malpractice lawyer can help you prove causation and build a strong case.


The fourth element is showing losses or damages that resulted from medical negligence. This includes both economic and non-economic damages, such as:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Lost wages or decreased earning capacity
  • Medical bills and future medical expenses
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Legal fees
  • Punitive damages

To recover compensation for these damages, you must prove that they are directly caused by a medical error or negligence using medical records, police reports, and other evidence. An expert witness can also assess the nature and extent of your damages and how they directly relate to the doctor’s duty.

If you believe that you can prove the four elements of malpractice, get in contact with The Pagan Law Firm to discuss your case further. Fill out our online contact form today.

What Qualifications Do They Need to Be an Expert Witness?

To qualify as an expert witness, the person must have advanced education, specialized training, and professional experience relevant to the medical malpractice case. They must also be able to provide a comprehensive opinion on the facts of your case and explain their statement in court.


Expert witnesses can be invaluable to your medical malpractice lawsuit. They have medical knowledge and can provide in-depth analysis of complex medical issues and help strengthen your argument. They can help explain complicated legal, medical, or technical evidence in a way that non-medical professionals can understand. Their mastery of the subject matter can help sway a jury’s opinion in your favor, and their expert testimony can be more reliable than that of a general eyewitness.


The expert witness should have the medical skill necessary to demonstrate the medical malpractice committed by the medical professional. Based on their expertise and knowledge, they should be able to provide a detailed and accurate analysis of what happened and why.

They should also have the communication skills to provide reliable and credible testimony in court. They are usually well-versed in the legal system, can explain complicated medical records or terminology, and have experience testifying in similar cases. Expert witnesses must be able to effectively communicate their opinion before a jury so that it is convincing.


An expert witness must have professional background relevant to your case. This includes medical experience, such as working in a hospital or professional practice, conducting research and studies, publishing papers on the topic, or teaching in the field. They should also have experience testifying as an expert witness in court cases.

Most states require an expert witness in a medical malpractice case to be a medical practitioner, so finding one actively practicing in the field and with the appropriate qualifications is crucial. 

Training or Education

A solid background in the medical field and sufficient training or education in their expertise are other requirements to be an expert witness. This includes formal degrees such as an M.D. or Ph.D., specialized certifications, and other medical-related courses. 

Additionally, most states require expert witnesses in a malpractice claim to have a current medical license in the state where you file the lawsuit. This ensures that the expert witness is reliable and up-to-date with current medical standards.

What Does an Expert Witness Do in a Medical Malpractice Case?

An expert witness is a critical part of any medical malpractice litigation. From testimony in court to providing an informed opinion on the facts of your case, they can help you prove that medical malpractice occurred and caused your damages.

Here are some of the roles an expert witness might play in a medical malpractice lawsuit:

Review Medical Records

An expert witness can review your medical records to identify medical errors and negligence during your medical treatment. They can assess the treatments, procedures, and medications provided by the medical professional and analyze if they fall below the accepted standard of care. They can also attest that the injury caused resulted from the doctor’s negligence.

Provide Medical Explanations

Medical terminology can be confusing for those without a medical background. An expert witness can explain the facts of your case in a way that is understandable for all participants, including the jury and judge. This can help you better prove the medical malpractice that occurred and determine the professional duty of care owed to you.

Cross-Examine With the Lawyers

In medical malpractice litigation, the patient’s attorney and the defendant’s lawyer may cross-examine the expert witness to evaluate their opinion and knowledge. They should be able to explain clearly the information presented and respond confidently to any questions asked. This could be used to help your lawyer strengthen their case and disprove any of the defense’s arguments.

Explain Medical Regulations

Expert witnesses typically testify about medical standards, protocols, and procedures relevant to your case and can explain the technical aspects of your medical records. They can provide evidence that the doctor failed to meet the accepted standard of care and caused harm to you as a result. They can also prove if the medical facility owed a duty of care to you and if that duty was breached.

Provide Unbiased Evidence

An expert witness should not be biased and able to provide an honest, impartial assessment of the facts of your case. They must give the court their professional opinion of what happened during your medical treatment and offer any evidence to support those opinions. This can help you build a compelling legal argument in favor of your position.

How Can an Expert Witness Prove Medical Malpractice?

An expert witness can help you prove medical malpractice in several ways.

  • They can review the facts of your case and provide an expert opinion of whether the medical professional breached their duty of care or acted negligently.
  • They can explain complicated medical terms to make it easier for a judge or jury to understand.
  • They can testify in court and explain why medical malpractice occurred, which can be used to build a strong case against the doctor or hospital.

Expert witnesses can help prove that the four elements of medical malpractice were met: duty of care, breach of duty, causation, and damages. With their testimony and evidence, you can hold the medical professional or facility accountable for your injuries and receive compensation for your damages.

How to Know If Your Medical Malpractice Case Needs an Expert Witness

Your medical malpractice lawyer should be able to tell you if your case needs an expert witness. Usually, an expert witness best supports cases involving complicated medical issues or treatments.

Most states also require plaintiffs to ask for an opinion from a medical expert before they can file for a medical malpractice claim. The plaintiffs must provide an affidavit of merit or get approved by a medical malpractice review panel before filing a case.

However, some medical malpractice lawsuits can do without an expert witness. Suppose you have a straightforward lawsuit with plenty of evidence, such as when a surgeon leaves an instrument in your body and it directly causes injuries. In that case, the court may understand the claim and reach a verdict without an expert witness.

These types of cases can be argued without the help of an expert witness because it’s easy to prove that the medical professional failed to meet basic standards of care. The rule of “res ipsa loquitur” is also applicable in cases like this, which means that the evidence speaks for itself.

For this rule to apply, you must prove three conditions:

  • You were harmed under the care of the medical provider.
  • The injury would not have happened unless the healthcare professional had been negligent.
  • You did not contribute to the damage.

It’s best to consult a medical malpractice lawyer to determine whether you need an expert witness for your case. An experienced lawyer can look at the facts of your case and decide if it’s best to bring in an expert witness.

An Experienced Lawyer Can Help Find an Expert Witness

While expert witnesses can be helpful when medical malpractice occurs, it’s critical to choose an expert that is qualified and experienced in the field. Your medical malpractice lawyer can help you find a reliable and reputable expert witness with experience involved with medical malpractice cases. They will also know which experts the court respects and have a successful track record of testifying in previous medical malpractice cases.

If you’re considering taking legal action for medical malpractice, The Pagan Law Firm can help. We have expertise in medical malpractice law and many years of experience handling personal injury cases. We provide no-obligation case evaluation and can answer any questions you have about medical malpractice. Our free legal consultation can make all the difference in protecting your legal rights.

Contact us online or call us at 212-967-8202 today to schedule your free consultation.

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