Expert Testimony in Virginia Medical Malpractice Cases

Doctors and other medical professionals are held to a high standard when it comes to the level of care that is expected of them. Indeed, when a medical professional fails to live up to the standards to which society holds them, they may be held liable for any resulting injuries though a Virginia medical malpractice lawsuit. However, proving a case of medical malpractice requires knowledge of both the science behind the medicine and also the law that applies to medical malpractice cases.

Doctor's CoatOne of the most important decisions any medical malpractice plaintiff must make is in the selection of their expert witnesses. Since most judges and jurors do not have advanced medical knowledge, courts often require plaintiffs to present an expert witness who can explain certain complex issues to the jury and offer their expert opinion. Of course, expert witnesses are also held to a high standard and must be accepted by the court before their testimony will be admissible.

A recent case illustrates the difficulties one plaintiff had when attempting to establish the elements of her medical malpractice case after the court determined that her expert witness’ testimony was not admissible.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a patient at the defendant medical center during the birth of her baby boy. Shortly after the plaintiff’s son was born, he began having seizures. Believing her son’s condition to be a result of negligent medical care provided at delivery, the plaintiff filed a medical malpractice case against the medical center and the delivering midwife.

The plaintiff presented an OB/GYN as her expert witness to establish that the defendants’ actions fell short of the standard of care they owed to the plaintiff. The expert prepared a report indicating that, in his opinion, the plaintiff’s son’s injuries were results of decisions made by the delivering midwife during labor. However, the particular doctor the plaintiff called was focused more on research than practice, and he had not delivered a baby since 2003. Additionally, the expert’s methodologies were admittedly unorthodox and not in line with the medical community’s standards.

The defendants asked the court to prevent the expert from testifying, and the court granted the defendants’ request. The court explained that in order to be accepted, an expert’s opinion must be based on reliable methodologies that have been tested and peer-reviewed. Here, the court explained, that was not the case. The expert candidly wrote in one of his publications that his methodology was against the prevailing diagnostic theory. He also admitted to never having diagnosed anyone with the specific condition with which the plaintiff’s son was born. As a result, the expert’s testimony was not admitted at trial, and the plaintiff’s case was dismissed.

Expert Testimony in Virginia Medical Malpractice Cases

In Virginia, the requirements for introducing expert testimony are less onerous than those discussed in the case above. Specifically, a plaintiff must show that the expert’s opinion will assist the trier of fact in understanding the evidence. However, while the expert’s testimony will more often be admitted in Virginia courts, an expert’s experience and credibility will be weighed against the opposing expert’s, making the decision of expert selection extremely important to a case’s ultimate success.

Have You Been a Victim of Medical Malpractice?

If you or a loved one has recently been a victim of what you believe to have been negligent medical care, you may be entitled to compensation through a Virginia medical malpractice lawsuit. The skilled personal injury and medical malpractice attorneys at the law offices of Charles B. Roberts, P.C. have extensive experience helping injured patients seek the compensation they need and deserve. We also have a broad network of medical expert witnesses with whom we consult whenever necessary. Call 703-491-7070 to schedule a free consultation with a dedicated Virginia medical malpractice attorney today.

See More Blog Posts:

Statutes of Limitations in Virginia Personal Injury Cases, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, October 5, 2017.

Plaintiff’s Lack of Diligence in Pursuing Claim Results in Dismissal with Prejudice, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, September 26, 2017.