Orthopedic Expert Witness & the Benefits of Hiring One

The area of surgery that deals with the invasive treatment of both illness and injury of the musculoskeletal system is known as orthopedic surgery. These types of medical professionals are trained to either stabilize or improve various types of conditions and injuries.

During the course of such treatment, it is possible that problems may occur. As such, orthopedic surgery claims have increased throughout the United States in the past few years, and will likely continue to do so.

To be an orthopedic surgeon, you must complete a five-year residency with an additional specialization into a sub-branch of orthopedics, such as foot and ankle or pediatric. Orthopedic surgeons complete many years of training to obtain the amount of specialized knowledge required in order to judge how to act and what procedures are necessary to treat a musculoskeletal condition. However, in a courtroom setting, an attorney or the jury may be expected to make a decision or design a case around this subject matter after only a few hours of proceedings or days of research. This is where an orthopedic surgery expert witness can be of true benefit.

The right orthopedic surgery expert witness can be a great asset to your case. To ensure that they provide the greatest amount of benefit, you should verify the following:

  • They should be able to perform Independent Medical Examinations (IME), which allow for an impartial evaluation of a patient’s physical condition.
  • They must be certified by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery
  • They should have a practice or an academic appointment which indicate an established knowledge of the field as well as a high level of experience

Orthopedic Surgery

In orthopedic surgery, litigation usually emerges as a result of unfortunate surgical outcomes which can end up causing a loss of quality of life for the patient. This can be due to a variety of factors from infection to over-treating. You may also see cases that regard a delay of treatment or even a complete lack of diagnosis.

Expert witness testimony is nearly always appropriate—and even necessary—in litigation involving medical malpractice. An orthopedic surgeon can help develop a case in three main ways:

  • Standard of care

An orthopedic surgery expert witness will be able to determine whether the standards of care due to the patient were violated. Cases wherein the duty of care provided to the patient was not to a sufficient standard are one of the most common types of orthopedic surgery negligence claims. An orthopedic surgery expert witness would be able to determine this relatively easily by examining post-operative radiographs and providing you with the conclusive results. For example, a surgical site infection that arose as the result of a lack of adequate sterilization during a joint replacement could be identified by a post-procedural examination conducted by the expert witness.

  • Causation

It is important to remember that not all poor outcomes are a result of negligent actions on the part of the surgeon. Medicine is not a guarantee, and underlying conditions are a frequent cause of post-operative complications. An orthopedic surgery expert witness would be able to determine whether the complication was due to a pre-existing condition or from the procedure itself. They would also be able to identify whether there was anything that made the condition worse, whether by fault of the surgeon, another physician, or the patient him or herself.

  • Damages

While an orthopedic expert can help an attorney build their case, they can also help establish what kinds of damages occurred, whether the plaintiff’s claims are legitimate, and how seriously the patient’s quality of life was diminished as a result of the negligence. All of these elements help inform the courtroom as to what level of restitution or punishment is necessary, if any, in order to rectify the actions of the defendant. This is especially significant because oftentimes orthopedic procedures deal with people’s ability to perform basic functions such as walking, or even standing—something exacerbated by the fact that this significantly impacts the way the patient is able to perform at work. All attorneys must have this information at hand—especially if a settlement offer is on the table—since it lets everyone know exactly what the settlement is worth.

Expert Medical Witnesses

Within the specialized field of orthopedic surgery, it is necessary to establish what would have been done by a capable and knowledgeable surgeon in those circumstances. It is not within the purview of an attorney to be able to make this highly technical determination, so an expert medical witness is necessary for uncovering and substantiating the true facts of the case.

By interpreting imaging, conducting reviews, and taking into account prior clinical history and established medical practices, expert medical witnesses are an essential element of orthopedic negligence cases. They can provide information for the basis of the case, inform you of the technicalities, explain the standard of orthopedic surgery to the courtroom, and establish deviations in the standard of care. Thus, it is easy to see how having access to someone who is truly knowledgeable in this area is necessary for establishing the legal merit and success of your entire case.