In a typical negligence case, the plaintiff must show his injuries were caused by someone to who owed the victim a legal duty and that the defendant breached that duty by not acting as a reasonable person would under similar circumstances. A medical malpractice case is similar to a typical negligence case in many ways, but one big difference applies to the reasonable person standard. Because medical training is so specialized, a medical provider’s reasonableness is judged not against the typical person, but to the standards of his or her profession.
Of course, judges and members of the jury usually aren’t medical professionals. So, how are they to know what the reasonable professional standards are? They certainly can’t rely only on the defendant to tell them, as he or she has a vested interest in the outcome. There may be some publications that help, such as codes of professional ethics, and the like, but these rarely cover more than general circumstances.
Usually, the parties attempt to show a jury of laypersons the standard of the profession by having other professionals describe what those standards are. These are known as expert witnesses, and medical malpractice trials often turn on what they say and how they say it.
Readers may remember that in Connecticut, a complaint for malpractice must be accompanied by a letter from a similar professional stating that there is an indication that negligence occurred. This professional may or may not be the same expert witness used in a trial. Under Connecticut law, expert testimony can be used when it is regarding a subject not generally known by the public, the witness has a specialty directly relevant to the case, and the testimony will actually help the court understand the issues at hand. Often, in medical malpractice cases, each party introduces its own experts, creating a dueling witness scenario.
Those wishing to recover medical expenses and other damages suffered by professional medical negligence may wish to consider that experienced Connecticut lawyers may know how to get the correct expert testimony admitted.