Mesa AZ | Medical malpractice claims and expert witnesses
To win a medical malpractice claim in Arizona, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant healthcare professional “failed to comply with the applicable standard of care.” To prove that the defendant did not comply with the applicable standard of care, a plaintiff must show that the defendant failed to “exercise that degree of care, skill, and learning that would be expected under similar circumstances of a reasonably prudent health care provider within this state.”
The above makes medical malpractice claims – at least to a certain extent – an exercise in comparison. A plaintiff must compare the defendant’s actions to those of a “reasonably prudent health care provider within the state.” In many cases, an expert witness (or more than one) will be the most efficient and effective means of making this required comparison, and showing that the defendant’s actions did not meet the standard of care. This is what makes expert witnesses one of the most important aspects of a good medical malpractice claim.
The importance of expert witnesses during the case makes preparation regarding expert witnesses before the case doubly important. A plaintiff must decide what he or she needs an expert for, find an appropriate expert for that need, and then prepare the expert for testimony. Typically, none of this should be considered an easy task, and a large amount of the work must be done before the case is even filed, not just before the trial. This is because of an Arizona law that requires the following (I am summarizing the law, it is available in its entirety here):
First, at the very beginning of medical malpractice case the plaintiff has to “certify in a written statement that is filed and served with the claim…whether or not expert opinion testimony is necessary to prove the health care professional’s standard of care or liability for the claim.” As discussed above, it is very likely that testimony from an expert witness will be necessary to prove the standard of care and liability.
If the plaintiff indicates that an expert witness will be necessary, the plaintiff must next “serve a preliminary expert opinion affidavit with the initial disclosures that are required by rule 26.1, Arizona rules of civil procedure.” The Rule 26.1 initial disclosure constitutes an exchange of information between the plaintiff and the defendant that takes place shortly after the initiation of the case. The “expert opinion affidavit” that must be included with this disclosure must contain at least the following information:
- The expert’s qualifications to express an opinion on the health care professional’s standard of care or liability for the claim.
- The factual basis for each claim against a health care professional.
- The health care professional’s acts, errors or omissions that the expert considers to be a violation of the applicable standard of care resulting in liability.
- The manner in which the health care professional’s acts, errors or omissions caused or contributed to the damages or other relief sought by the claimant.
As you can see, the law demands a large amount of detailed, important information regarding expert witnesses at the very beginning of the case. Because of this, a plaintiff must be as prepared as possible before the case is filed. If you are considering a medical malpractice claim, please seek the assistance of an experienced attorney. An experienced attorney can help you to find and prepare expert witnesses who can assist you in proving that the defendant’s actions were below the standard of care in Arizona. Further, an experienced attorney can help you and your expert witnesses to comply with the disclosure laws discussed here, as well as the laws of evidence and procedure. Expert witnesses are a key component of most successful medical malpractice claims, so you should not leave anything to chance as you prepare for your case.
This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you or someone you know wishes to seek the help of an experienced personal injury attorney regarding Preparation of Expert Witnesses, or other personal injury matters, call 480.461.5300. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.