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Why are expert witnesses required in medical malpractice cases?

When a plaintiff files a medical malpractice lawsuit, the claim is usually that health care providers were negligent in providing care, and as a result of the provider's negligence, the plaintiff suffered personal injury or other harm. Negligence is a legal cause of action involving the breach of a duty that one person owes to another.

In medical situations, the duty owed to patients by health care providers is to provide services with a particular standard of care. If the services provided fall below the requisite standard of care and result in harm to the patient, the physician or other care provider may be liable to compensate the patient for damages.

According to the law in Connecticut, the required standard of care is measured against the level of care recognized as acceptable and appropriate by a reasonably prudent health care provider of a similar specialty. That is simple to say, but the actual standard of care in any given situation can be difficult to determine and even more difficult to prove.

Only another doctor has the required expertise to determine and testify about what should have been done in a particular situation. This is why almost all medical malpractice lawsuits require the expert testimony of another doctor.

An impartial physician is able to read medical charts and explain what care was given. The expert can also make a determination as to whether that care was appropriate and reasonable under the circumstances.

In Connecticut, before such an expert will be allowed to testify, the court must be satisfied that the expert has sufficient training, experience and knowledge in the medical field in question in a particular case. This requires that the expert have at least five years of experience in the field.

Medical malpractice is a complex area of law. This posting is offered as an overview of the topic, but it is not intended as legal advice. Legal advice should only be obtained from a knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney.

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