Why is medical expert witness testimony necessary and what qualifies an expert witness? The overwhelming consensus in the legal community is that medical expert testimony is usually necessary to sustain a medical malpractice or personal injury action. However, before the medical expert can be of value, he or she must satisfy the court requirements related to medical expert qualifications.
When the plaintiff proffers medical expert testimony, the trial court must determine whether the subject matter on which an opinion is being offered is beyond the knowledge of the average layman. If affirmative, the court must then determine whether the proffered witness possesses the requisite skill and knowledge to render an opinion that will assist the judge and jury in arriving at a verdict. This properly presumes that neither the trial court nor the jurors possess the requisite expertise to adequately evaluate the conduct of medical practitioners.
So what does the requisite expertise enable?
Medical expert testimony helps ascertain the level of skill and expertise customarily possessed and employed by physicians in diagnosing and treating illness under circumstances similar to those in the plaintiff’s case. It also enables the determination of whether the defendant’s alleged action 1) was a deviation from the standard of care and 2) caused the injury.