The Importance of Medical Experts in Virginia Medical Malpractice Cases

Medical malpractice cases are some of the most complex and confusing types of personal injury cases. In fact, most medical malpractice cases require an understanding of the medical field beyond what most lawyers and judges possess. For this reason, Virginia lawmakers have implemented a requirement that all medical malpractice plaintiffs present a qualified expert to help explain to the judge and jury how the defendant’s actions fell below the required standard of care and also how those actions resulted in the plaintiff’s injuries.

SurgeryThe selection of medical experts in a medical malpractice case is an extremely important decision that can have an enormous effect on the outcome of the case. For example, if a witness is not properly qualified, or does not offer an opinion that is based upon acceptable and recognized practices of the profession, the expert’s opinion may be open to attack by the defense.

A recent opinion illustrates the problems one medical malpractice plaintiff encountered when a court determined that the experts he presented failed to establish that the defendant’s actions were responsible for his injuries.

The Plaintiff Suffers Post-Surgical Pain, Resulting in a Permanent Injury

The plaintiff underwent a surgery that was performed by the defendant doctors. Prior to the surgery, the doctors positioned the plaintiff’s body as they normally do for this type of surgery, with his hands placed behind his back. At no time during the 9.5-hour surgery did any of the doctors reposition the plaintiff. After the surgery, the plaintiff began to complain of pain in his arms and shoulders. He was later diagnosed with compartment syndrome, which required another surgery to relieve the pressure in his right arm. Unfortunately, the surgery was unable to completely cure the plaintiff’s condition, and he never regained the use of his arm.

The plaintiff filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the doctors, claiming that they were negligent in placing him in the initial position and also in failing to reposition him during the 9.5-hour surgery. As was required, the plaintiff presented two experts to establish causation. However, neither expert was able to testify to a reasonable degree of medical certainty that the defendant’s actions or inactions caused the plaintiff’s injuries. Instead, the experts’ collective testimony was that the plaintiff’s initial position “may have contributed” to his injuries, and if the doctors had repositioned him, the plaintiff would “probably” have suffered less severe injuries.

The court explained that the experts’ testimony presented only a “medical possibility” that the defendants’ actions were the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries and affirmed the dismissal of the plaintiff’s case.

Have You Been a Victim of Medical Malpractice?

If you or a loved one has recently been a victim of a mistake made by a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Virginia medical malpractice lawsuit. The laws regarding expert witnesses in Virginia are less stringent than those applied in the case above, but an expert’s opinion is always susceptible to attack by the defense. It is best that you discuss your case with a dedicated attorney and work with them to select an appropriate expert for your case. The skilled personal injury and medical malpractice attorneys at Charles B. Roberts & Associates have a broad network of medical experts and can help you select an expert appropriate for your case. Call 703-491-7070 to schedule a free consultation with a dedicated medical malpractice attorney today.

See More Blog Posts:

Proof of Causation Is Imperative in Virginia Slip-and-Fall Cases, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, February 22, 2017.

Court Determines School’s Efforts to Melt Snow in Parking Lot Did Not Increase the Chance of Student’s Slip-and-Fall Accident, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, March 6, 2017.