Qualifications for Medical Experts in Medical Malpractice Cases
When an individual is injured following medical care, many questions arise. Obviously, first and foremost is how to recover from the injury. Once recovered (or once the individual comes to the realization that recovery may be delayed or impossible), it becomes intuitive to address exactly what happened, and question whether the injury was preventable. If the injured individual answers that last question positively, it is only natural to discuss options with an attorney experienced in medical malpractice matters. An important aspect of a medical malpractice case is the engagement of the services of a medical expert. In fact, in many cases, the choice of a quality medical expert can mean the difference between success and failure of the underlying medical malpractice case. Recently, a Florida emergency room physician, who has been embroiled as a defendant in a medical malpractice case, won a key victory at the appellate court level when that court upheld the dismissal of the case against him, holding that the medical expert used by the plaintiff was unqualified to provide an expert opinion. A discussion of what a medical expert does, as well as the qualifications of a medical expert in Florida medical malpractice cases, will follow below.
Medical Experts, Generally
Under Florida law, when pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit, a party may employ a medical expert during both the discovery (fact gathering) and the trial phases of the lawsuit. (Medical expert involvement is mandatory during the initial pre-suit phase.) Essentially, a medical expert is a person, qualified by reason of his/her skill, knowledge, education, experience, or training, to testify concerning a particular medical area. Typically, medical experts offer an opinion not only on the establishment of the standard of care to be applied in a particular matter, but also the injury being a direct result of the failure of the medical professional. In some cases, medical experts may be called on to provide testimony regarding the long-term consequences of the injury.
Legal Requirements in Florida
To ensure that the medical expert is, in fact, an expert, the law requires each person submitted as an expert to meet certain qualifications. The type of experience expected is essentially the same for specialists, general practitioners, and other medical professionals, with the only the length of time differing. For specialists, three years’ experience is necessary to qualify as an expert witness. For general practitioners, five years is necessary, and for other types of medical professionals, three years. Looking at specifics, the experience required of each includes:
- For Specialists:
- The active clinical practice of, or consulting in, the same specialty;
- Teaching at an accredited health professional school or residency or clinical research program in the same specialty; or
- A clinical research program affiliated with an accredited health professional school or residency or clinical research program in the same specialty.
- For General Practitioners:
- The active clinical practice or consultation as a general practitioner;
- Teaching in an accredited health professional school or residency program in the general practice of medicine; or
- A clinical research program affiliated with an accredited medical school or teaching hospital in the general practice of medicine.
- For other medical professionals:
- The active clinical practice of, or consulting with respect to, the same or similar health profession as the defendant;
- The instruction of students in an accredited health professional school or accredited residency program in the same or similar health profession as the defendant; or
- A clinical research program affiliated with an accredited medical school or teaching hospital and that is in the same or similar health profession as defendant.
Seek Legal Advice
If you were injured as the result of medical treatment, contact the attorneys at Pita Weber & Del Prado as soon as possible. Our experience in medical malpractice is extensive, and we will work with you to obtain the compensation you deserve. Further, due to our experience, we are able to ensure that we will engage the best medical expert available. Coupled with our strategy, we will help ensure that your case is as ironclad as possible. Contact our Miami office today for an initial free consultation.