Who are orthopedic expert witnesses and what is their role?

An orthopedic surgeon is known for the treatment and diagnosis of bone-related injuries like broken bones, and other musculoskeletal problems. An orthopedic surgeon deals with a number of problems like shoulder, neck, elbow, wrist, ankle, knee, and also sport-related injuries. Now the question is who is an orthopedic expert witness and what is their role? Orthopedic expert witnesses are surgeons who are certified to provide medico-legal opinions on personal injury cases or medical malpractice lawsuits. All orthopedic witnesses are orthopedic surgeons but all surgeons are not orthopedic witnesses. This is something that you must keep in mind.

Things to know about orthopedic experts:

Before understanding the role of expert witnesses, it’s important to know what malpractice litigation is. Medical malpractices take place when due to the professional negligence of the doctor; the patient has to sustain injuries. It occurs when the medical practitioner deviates from the standards of their profession. If patients sustain an injury, they can seek compensation for the damages caused to them. Also, they can sue the doctor for the negligent act by filing a lawsuit against them. An attorney usually represents the plaintiff on his behalf and it is the attorney who calls upon an expert witness to understand the complexities of a medical malpractice case.

Frankly speaking, an orthopedic expert witness is a middleman between an attorney and the plaintiff in a medical malpractice lawsuit. They are called upon to provide expert guidance and testimony on complex matters of malpractice claims. The attorneys will hire an expert witness who is specialized in a particular field. For instance, if there is a knee injury malpractice, the attorney needs to hire an expert witness who has knowledge and experience in testifying about knee injuries. It is with this level of experience and professional know-how that they’re able to understand the complex elements of a medical malpractice case. It’s important to choose the best expert witness because they can make or break the case. Their reviews and opinions may not be binding on the decision-makers but the jury cannot give their verdict without their support. So these expert witnesses are beneficial not only to the plaintiff but also to the jury. Another interesting thing to note here is that these orthopedic experts are also beneficial to the defendants. They can also take these expert services to counter the claims made by the plaintiff.

Lastly, the attorneys should be very diligent while taking these third opinions. Certain factors have to be considered before hiring them to ensure that these expert witnesses have a thorough knowledge of how orthopedic surgical procedures can affect someone’s life. If you think that you or your loved ones have been injured because of the negligence of the surgeon, you must get in touch with an experienced lawyer to get the best solution to your problem. Remember medical malpractice is highly complex because most malpractices take place because of technical errors like faulty equipment or cutting the wrong organ of the patient. All malpractices are not due to the errors of the surgeons. There can be contributory damages as well-meaning to say that the plaintiff might be responsible for the injuries. In that case, the attorney has to work closely with the orthopedic expert witness to rule out contributory negligence because that could result in counter-attacks from the defendants.  Remember that litigation is filed only after it established that there has been negligence by the medical professional.

The role of an orthopedic expert witness in medical malpractice lawsuits:

An orthopedic expert witness plays a key role in medical negligence cases. Parties involved in malpractice litigation should have knowledge on how treatments in certain cases can affect the court and why reimbursement is mandatory in this regard. This is one of the reasons why it is important to hire the right expert witness. Some of the major roles played by an orthopedic expert witness can be listed as follows:

  • To offer impartial, credible, and evidence-based reviews on the case within their medical expertise.
  • To provide a simplified version of the complex elements of the case for which the jury will need assistance. These case reviews and facts must be on the basis of common professional practice.
  • To corroborate with the other party to slim down the technical faults in the initial stage and to rule out the peripheral issues in the later stage of the case.
  • To offer evidence to the court that is neutral and free from biases.
  • To conduct Independent Medical Examination if required.
  • To make it clear that certain areas fall outside their scope of work and expertise.

One important thing to note here is that the services offered by an orthopedic expert witness must in adherence to strict professionalism and they should be part of important associations and societies.

Importance of seeking expert advice:

Now that you are aware of the role of expert witnesses, it is essential to understand why these expert witnesses are important in a medical malpractice case. Below mentioned is a list of reasons why seeking advice from an orthopedic expert witness is mandatory.

  • To prove that there has been a breach of the duty of standard of care by the medical professionals– Every doctor owes a duty of cure to a patient under his/her treatment. It is the first thing that established a doctor-patient relationship. These malpractice cases are highly complex and require an expert to determine how the doctor deviated from the standard care. Also, understanding the core aspects of a medical problem is outside the knowledge of a jury. In fact, the attorney representing on behalf of the plaintiff is not an expert in understanding the intricate details of a medical negligence case. This is where he decides to bring in an expert witness. An orthopedic expert witness will have to prove that if a professional and a caring doctor with the same credentials would have been in the same situation, then he/she might have take decisions that wouldn’t have caused the injuries to the patient.
  • Malpractice claims are complicated and consist of complex elements– Medical malpractice cases are highly complicated because most of them are technical in nature. Usually, the equipment used might be faulty or the doctor might use the wrong equipment for the surgery. These are a few instances of technical errors. Because of different specialties and medical conditions, it is not possible for the jury to understand what a duty of care to the patient would have meant in that particular context. Expert witnesses are called to give a detailed review of the case based on his knowledge and expertise. To get case facts, the attorneys work in close collaboration with the medical experts. They explain how a doctor has breached the duty of care, quantify the injuries and damages caused and will determine what errors took place while the surgery was performed. Besides this, they will also determine what another medical practitioner of the same credential would have done to avoid injuries.
  • To seek the full compensation amount– You have to understand that the opponent will try to restrict your compensation amount to as low as possible. To get the best compensation amount, it is important to build the case strong so that no stones are left unturned. This is impossible without the help of an attorney and an expert witness.
  • To determine if there is a case of malpractice by the medical professional– Before filing a lawsuit, it is important for the attorney to discuss the entire matter with an expert witness. The lawsuit can be filed only when there are sufficient grounds to prove that the medical professional deviated from the standard of care and that the plaintiff sustained injuries because of the negligence of the doctor. If this requirement is not met, you might have to face counter-attacks from the other side which include dismissal of claims and penalties.

These are some of the major reasons why you need the help of an orthopedic expert witness in medical malpractice claims. Also, you must understand that medical malpractices can take place due to other reasons as well. Sometimes the fault of the surgeon cannot be considered as the reason for the injuries. It might happen that the patient was earlier informed of the pros and cons of the surgery but despite that, the patient agreed to go for the surgery. Under such circumstances, it cannot be the fault of the doctor and you cannot sue them.

Statute of Limitations- An important part of Medical Malpractice case

In California, the statute of limitations is two years from the date when such an injury was determined. This two-year deadline is very important because if you miss out that deadline, you will not be able to file any lawsuit or seek your compensation. So it’s better to take advice at the very earliest and you shouldn’t try to sort it out on your own no matter how much knowledge you have. This will only delay the process and your chances of receiving compensation will fall. As soon as you determine that there has been negligence, your first step is to seek medical help to treat your side effects or whatever medical issues you’re facing. Keep these prescriptions with care because these are incredible evidence of medical negligence cases. These documents will also prove that there had been negligence. Do not stop visiting your doctor or taking your medicines because that will leave an impression that your damages are not ‘severe’ enough to file a lawsuit or ask for compensation. Get in touch with an attorney as soon as you can because the faster you seek assistance, the greater will be the chances of receiving your compensation.

Damages that you can recover in orthopedic malpractices:

In medical malpractice cases, the plaintiff can recover two main types of damages- economic and non-economic damages. In this context, you’ll get to know what these damages are all about.

Economic Damages

These damages are also known as monetary damages and contain everything that we can calculate numerically. These are also referred to as ‘special damages’. Medical expenses that are needed and will be required in the future, compensation for losing the capacity to earn, loss of income, and others. The complex part is calculating these damages. It is only an attorney and an expert witness that can chalk out the expenses. This is one of the reasons why you should immediately get in touch with an attorney. The attorneys will seek help from expert witnesses to make these calculations. Honestly speaking, it’s difficult to calculate the damages if the gravity of the injuries is not known. So, the role of orthopedic experts in every step of a malpractice claim is crucial.

Non-economic damages

 These damages are subjective in nature and are also known as ‘non-economic’ damages. The non-economic damages are as follows;

Pain and suffering

This is one of the main forms of non-economic damages. After an injury, every individual has to go through pain and suffering. Not only the individual but also the closed ones have to go through the same. All the discomfort and physical pain that a patient suffers due to the negligence of the surgeon will be covered under the ‘pain and suffering’. It also consists of emotional and mental effects that the person goes through.

Some of the other examples of pain and suffering include- loss of enjoyment of activities, emotional anguish, reputational damage, and much more!

Loss of consortium

It refers to the intangible benefits and is a part of personal injury claims.

If you or your loved ones have been injured due to the negligence of the surgeon, you must get in touch with a professional attorney as soon as possible. These are the list of damages for which you can seek compensation. The roles of orthopedic expert witnesses are extremely crucial in malpractice cases and you should seek legal counsel to get your deserving compensation on time.

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