Medical guidelines and the importance of expert testimony

In our last post, we began speaking about medical guidelines and their potential usefulness for holding negligent physicians accountable for harm to their patients. As we noted, medical guidelines can serve as standards of care, but medical guidelines are not all the same.

Because medical guidelines are not uniform, the issue of standard of care is more complicated. When a patient is harmed, a patient who wishes to recover damages must be able to demonstrate that the physician responsible for their care failed to abide by an accepted standard of care. Variations in medical guidelines can leave room for disagreement about what exactly the standard of care is in any given scenario. 

It isn’t always the case that the standard of care is unknown. In many instances, the standard of care to which a physician should be held is well known and not up for dispute. In cases where there is less clarity, however, it is typically necessary to try the issue in court with the assistance of expert witnesses. This process is sometimes referred to as “battle of the experts.” Expert witnesses are supposed to help lay the scientific and medical foundations for what constitutes reasonable care for a licensed physician in a given set of circumstances.  

Selecting a knowledgeable, credible expert witness to help establish the proper standard of care in a medical malpractice case is not always an easy task. This is especially true in cases where the negligent physician is highly specialized. Working with an experienced attorney is, therefore, important to ensure that one has guidance in selecting the best possible expert witness or witnesses.

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