Criteria now stricter for expert witnesses in NJ malpractice cases

Medical mistakes or negligence can have devastating and lifelong effects on innocent people. When people in Monmouth County and other parts of New Jersey are the victims of medical malpractice, they have the right to seek compensation for their suffering and, if necessary, take the issue to court.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court of New Jersey changed the standards for expert witnesses who can be called in medical malpractice cases. Although ensuring the qualifications of expert witnesses is clearly important, this change may also make it more difficult for victims of malpractice to find witnesses and present their cases effectively.

Importance of expert witnesses

An expert witness can play a significant role in the outcome of a medical malpractice case. An article published on the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health website describes some of the responsibilities of expert witnesses:

  • An expert witness must review medical records and evaluate what the physician should or should not have done.
  • An expert witness must tell the judge and jury whether the defending physician acted negligently.
  • An expert witness may be held liable for providing biased or incorrect testimony.
  • For similar failings, an expert witness may face sanctions from professional associations or state licensing boards.

Expert witnesses clearly have significant factors motivating them to present their best knowledge and judgment before the jury and judge. Still, concerns about the accuracy and qualifications of expert witnesses persist, as reflected by recent changes to the criteria that determine whether a professional can be considered an expert witness in New Jersey.

NJ expert witness qualifications

According to an American Medical News article, the qualifications of New Jersey expert witnesses were evaluated earlier this year during a medical malpractice case. The plaintiff had suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning and alleged that his resulting injuries could have been prevented had the medical professionals who treated him acted differently. A specialist in hyperbaric medicine, which can be used to treat carbon monoxide poisoning, testified as an expert witness on behalf of the plaintiff.

The state Supreme Court, however, ruled that the specialist was not qualified to testify against the emergency physician and family physician being charged in the malpractice case. The court stipulated that an expert witness must have a board certification in the same specialty as the defending physician does.

There is no denying the importance of expert witnesses having the appropriate knowledge and experience to testify against medical professionals who are facing charges of negligence. Still, strict expert witness requirements can eliminate knowledgeable professionals and make it more difficult for plaintiffs to find strong witnesses. These new requirements make it even more important for medical malpractice victims to find qualified, expert help when seeking justice.

Anyone who has been injured because of substandard care on the part of a medical professional in New Jersey should contact an attorney. An attorney can help the victim understand his or her rights and pursue appropriate compensation for the injury.