When lawyers talk to people about a medical malpractice case, lawyers have to consider the rules that govern those cases.
Medical malpractice is a breach of the medical standard of care that results in harm. Medical malpractice can’t generally be proven without an expert opinion. Courts require expert opinions in most injury cases and in medical malpractice cases especially.
In injury cases, just because a person believes they were injured does not mean that they would be allowed to state their belief in court. Obviously, somebody in an accident who was cut and saw blood could testify about the simple cuts and scrapes that they saw.
However, injuries such as herniated discs or injured joints require a doctor’s testimony to confirm, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that the injuries happened as a result of the accident. This same requirement holds true in medical malpractice cases, but in a different way.
People don’t know and the courts don’t know what the rules are that doctors are supposed to follow. If a doctor was supposed to operate on the right shoulder and operated on the left, you probably wouldn’t need an expert. However, in every other case, you have to have an expert state what the rule is, how that rule was broken, and what the harm was.
Alabama is extremely strict with its own rules in the Alabama Medical Liability Act (AMLA). That set of rules governs how cases are handled in our state. The most common requirement that people run afoul of, is that the “expert” doctor who testifies about what rule was broken has to be the exact same kind of doctor with the same kind of qualifications as the doctor who is alleged to have committed malpractice.
It used to be fairly common for lawyers to go to different states and find retired doctors to render opinions that would bring the case to trial. That is certainly not true anymore. And in fact, the failure of an expert witness to testify that they were board-certified in the same specialty during their testimony was enough to cause the Alabama Supreme Court to reverse a jury verdict in favor of the injured person even though the doctor was qualified. Medical malpractice cases are complicated and not easy to win for a variety of reasons. Doctors are rightfully perceived as professionals trying to help others and that makes those cases difficult. If you want an idea about a medical malpractice case, watch The Verdict with Paul Newman.
Buckle up, drive safely, and as always, your referrals are appreciated!