Expert Witnesses In Florida Medical Malpractice Cases
In general, it is difficult to file a medical malpractice case in Florida. There are long lists of requirements and qualifications that a potential plaintiff must meet in order to even bring their suit to court, while establishing medical negligence and collecting damages may be even more difficult. One of the most misunderstood is the requirements one must meet in order for expert witness testimony to be acceptable in court, and yet without an expert witness, a medical malpractice case in Florida is doomed to fail. It is crucial to understand your options.
Make Sure Your Expert Qualifies
In order to file a medical malpractice case in Florida, a plaintiff must go through a ‘presuit investigation,’ including having a licensed physician provide them with an ‘expert medical opinion’ stating that malpractice or negligence occurred. This both confirms to the court that the plaintiff’s case is legitimate (not frivolous), and provides a framework that clearly states what the plaintiff’s case is. However, the requirements that an expert witness must meet in order to testify, and to have their testimony accepted as evidence, are particularly stringent.
One of the biggest issues one might encounter is ensuring that the expert’s testimony meets the accepted evidentiary standard under Florida law. There has been a series of court decisions in the last few years, choosing to adopt a standard known as the Daubert standard (named after a court case, specifying that expert testimony has to reach a certain standard), and then recanting, re-adopting the prior Frye standard, which had been in practice beforehand. As of this writing, state law for expert testimony mirror Sec. 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence, which is a different standard in itself.
If you are able to file your suit, one important thing you should keep in mind is that not every doctor will fit the same mold, and some will be better witnesses than others even if they are specialists in the same field. For example, in some situations, a patient’s medical providers might be chosen for them, such as in workers’ compensation cases. It is sometimes possible to enlist the doctor who treated your injuries (sustained when malpractice was committed against you) as an expert, but in this type of case, it would not be feasible – the doctor would likely be more loyal to the companies who employ them than they would be to you, the patient.
In court, it is also absolutely crucial that your expert witness not overstate or otherwise fudge their credentials in the relevant field. Florida law states that the expert witness must, where possible, be a specialist in the same exact field as the doctor against whom they are testifying, and while it can be a very human tendency to overstate or otherwise mislead, it is the death knell of your case if your expert is caught in an inconsistency. Experienced expert witnesses know better, while those in the position for the first time may make this critical error.
Call A Tampa Medical Malpractice Attorney
Medical malpractice is one of the most difficult cases to file in Florida, simply because there are so many obstacles in a plaintiff’s way. If you have experienced injury due to malpractice, however, you have the right to try and file suit in order to receive the compensation you deserve; with a dedicated Tampa medical malpractice attorney from the Rinaldo Law Group on your side, your odds of prevailing will very likely improve. Contact our offices today for a free consultation.