Categories: Health Law,

Statements from expert witnesses can often make or break a medical malpractice defense, and more than 30 states have rules in place that set high standards for what qualifies as “expert” testimony. But these state rules are often too vague, and do not specify how to handle doctors who deal in a specialized or even specific practice. Medical defense lawyers in Fort Lauderdale hope that Florida’s recent changes will help clarify who should be allowed to testify in specific malpractice suits.

Many state laws regarding expert witnesses stipulate that the witness must have the same, or a similar, medical background and expertise as the doctor or nurse facing the lawsuit. However, these laws do not include criteria for determining how “similar” in practice the sued doctor and the expert witness must be. In some states, a pharmacist is qualified to testify in a lawsuit against a doctor involving informed consent; a neurosurgeon can be called upon in a malpractice suit against a vascular surgeon; a nephrologist can testify on behalf of a plaintiff suing a urologist. While these specialties share similarities, they are not wholly the same—and the testimony from a doctor of one kind of practice is not always helpful in understanding the nature of another practice.

In Florida, recent legislative changes have focused on the risks inherent in relying on expert testimony to paint an accurate picture of a specialist’s everyday activities. A new bill, HB7015, has taken steps to eliminate confusion in determining who can act as an expert witness, narrowing the candidate pool. Now, an expert witness must have practiced in the exact same field or specialty as the defendant he or she is called upon to testify for or against.

For other states such as New York, where the laws have not yet been updated to follow in Florida’s footsteps, precedents set in prior cases are usually the determining factors in selecting expert witnesses. If a similar situation can be found in the court records, defendants and their medical malpractice attorneys are at the mercy of the court’s interpretation. Often, judges will grant expert witness status without knowing what relationship exists between the expert and the doctor on trial.

In malpractice lawsuits, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the doctor being accused has failed to diagnosis his patient properly, take the necessary care, or follow through with procedures, check-ups, and surgeries. This demonstration is strengthened if the plaintiff’s attorneys can find another doctor to corroborate these accusations, and state for the record what should have been done to treat the plaintiff. But, medical defense lawyers in Fort Lauderdale say that these expert witness testimonies do not always paint an accurate picture. Sometimes the witnesses themselves do not fully understand the demands of the specialty.

The medical defense lawyers at Florida law firm Lubell Rosen keep up-to-date with the latest changes to malpractice and health care laws, and offer legal counsel and representation to anyone facing malpractice charges in Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, and New York.