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Expert Witnesses in Birth Injury Lawsuits – Who Are They and Why Are They Important?

Michael Becker

Nothing can take away the pain of a child’s tragic injury during birth, but medical malpractice lawsuits often give families a sense of closure in addition to getting justice and holding the wrongdoers accountable. Yet the emotional ordeal of a lawsuit is only worth it if the legal claim is successful and the plaintiff receives compensation. The success of a birth injury claim often relies heavily on the testimony of expert witnesses. So, who are expert witnesses and why are they important?

What is an expert witness?

An expert witness is a person who has specialized knowledge or skills in a specific field and is qualified to offer an opinion during a lawsuit. It should be noted that the treating physician who testifies about the child’s medical care is a fact witness. An expert witness, on the other hand, offers an opinion based on materials presented to them during the legal proceedings.

The burden of proving the case lies with the plaintiff. An expert witness helps to present the strongest case based on their experience, knowledge, and skills. It is sometimes necessary to retain an expert who can explain complicated medical information to the jury in a complex case and establish the claim for negligence.

What are the types of expert witnesses?

Birth injury lawsuits almost always require the testimony of an expert witness. Broadly speaking, expert witnesses can be divided into three categories:

  • Experts who help establish causation and standard of care
  • Experts who help establish the severity of injuries and damages
  • Experts who help quantify the intangible aspects of a child’s birth injury (damage witnesses)

During a birth injury lawsuit, it is necessary to establish that the treating physician deviated from the standard of care. Other specialists are needed to explain the child’s injuries and disabilities at the current time as well as in the future. A wide variety of medical experts are called upon to testify in birth injury lawsuits, the most common being:

  • Obstetrician
  • Pediatric neurologist
  • Neonatologist
  • Perinatologist
  • Neuropsychologist and/or developmental psychologist
  • Pathologist
  • Physical and occupational therapist
  • Life care planning specialist or economist
  • Pediatric neuroradiologist

Why is an expert witness important in a birth injury lawsuit?

It is critical for the most qualified experts to represent a child in a birth injury case and protect the child’s future. It is noteworthy that the cost of raising a child with special needs is considerably higher than raising a healthy child and requires considerable planning. Expert witnesses can help ensure the family receives the financial compensation they will need to make this mammoth task a little easier.

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