A medical expert witness is a professional who has expertise in some field of medicine. Expert witnesses are often used by an attorney or judge to provide testimony during trial, or for discussions before a jury. Most doctors are legally qualified as experts in some area of medicine. The duties of an expert can vary widely depending on the type of case and their jurisdiction.
Types of Expert Witnesses
There are three main types of expert witnesses: an accident reconstruction witness, a biomechanical engineering and safety expert, and a medical doctor. Although all types may be qualified to provide reliable opinions, each type has expertise in one field or another which is used to better understand the facts of the case. More information about each type of expert witness is below.
Accident Reconstruction Expert
A reconstructionist provides testimony based on observations, measurements, data interpretation and/or research to assist in the investigation of accidents or incidents. They are typically used by attorneys to provide detailed information concerning how an accident occurred according to scientific evidence. The use of a reconstructionist typically occurs in cases involving motor vehicle accidents, medical malpractice, workplace accidents, or product liability claims.
Biomechanical Engineering and Safety Expert
A biomechanical engineering expert is hired to analyze injury causation pertaining to injuries sustained in an accident. The type of analysis varies depending on the case and could include crashworthiness issues such as seat belts, airbags, or windshields; product failure; or medical malpractice. The biomechanical engineering expert provides scientific testimony to attorneys and the court in order to help determine the facts of an incident.
Medical experts are typically used when there is a dispute over diagnosis, care provided, treatment given, cause of death, or prognosis following a patient’s medical treatment. Medical experts typically provide testimony regarding the care and treatment of the patient as well as an assessment of the cause and/or effect on health as it relates to any alleged negligence by a defendant. If there is no allegation of medical malpractice, then expert witness may testify about various matters such as causation or the standard of care.
Roles in a Trial
Since medical experts can provide testimony in both civil and criminal cases, it is important to note the difference in their role during each type of proceeding. Medical experts serve as fact witnesses when testifying in criminal court where they offer factual information relative to an alleged violation for which the defendant is charged with a crime. In a civil trial, medical experts’ testimony is offered as an opinion on a question of fact or as an expert in the field where they have sufficient expertise.
Most doctors are legally qualified as experts in some area of medicine and can offer reliable opinions during a trial. The duties of an expert witness can vary widely depending on the type of case and their jurisdiction.