EXPERT WITNESSES- WHAT ARE THEY AND WHY DO I NEED ONE?
One of the most important parts of almost every medical malpractice action in North Carolina is the expert witness. Although there is a great body of law on the subject, this overview shall attempt to give you a general understanding of who qualifies as an expert their role in your case, and why you need one.
North Carolina law requires almost all medical malpractice cases to be reviewed by an expert witness prior to filing suit. Your case is almost certainly the type that requires expert witness review. Even for those cases that may not legally require an expert review, obtaining an expert review prior to filing is still the wisest course of action. In general, if your case is not reviewed by an expert witness before you file suit North Carolina law requires that your case be dismissed.
The expert must be in the same or similar specialty as the physician (or other health care provider such as a nurse or PA) whose negligence was the cause of your injury. For example, if you were injured during a spinal surgery by a neurosurgeon you would need to have your records reviewed by a neurosurgeon or a physician who specializes in another area of medicine in which they perform spinal surgery, such as an orthopedic surgeon.
In addition to being in the same or similar specialty the expert must also have spent over fifty percent of his professional time in the active clinical practice of that specialty and/or teaching students in the same specialty. That means that the expert cannot be a “hired gun”, someone who spends a majority of their time reviewing records and testifying in legal cases, nor can the expert be primarily an administrator. In other words, your expert witness must spend most of their time at work seeing patients, operating, or whatever else is generally considered active clinical practice for their job.
The expert must review all the pertinent records relating to your case and, after review, be willing to testify that the care and treatment you received fell below the applicable standard of care.
Making sure your expert witness meets all of these requirements is essential to your case. One of the main reasons medical malpractice cases are dismissed in North Carolina is that the expert does not meet the requirements.
Although, at first, these requirements may seem daunting, at The Rawlings Law Firm we have a large database of expert witnesses that we have either used previously or who come highly recommended by other medical malpractice attorneys. We can find the right expert for your case, and since we speak their language, we can discuss your case and their qualifications with them prior to them reviewing your case to ensure we locate the best expert for you.