What Is “Expert Certification” for a Medical Malpractice Claim?
A medical malpractice case may seem straightforward at first, but filing your case is, in fact, a complicated endeavor. The state of Maryland demands specific procedural requirements be followed with every case, including that expert certification be filed with the Maryland Health Care Alternative Dispute Resolution Office. An experienced Baltimore medical malpractice law firm can help you obtain this certification and also bring your case to an efficient resolution.
Ask a Medical Malpractice Law Firm in Baltimore: What Is “Expert Certification?”
In proving a medical malpractice case, you must prove your doctor behaved negligently, meaning the court must be made to understand the medicine behind your case. This can be difficult for no other reason than medicine is complex. To bridge the gap between what the court does and doesn’t understand in a medical malpractice case, Baltimore requires that every plaintiff has a qualified expert review their medical records.
What ultimately comes from this review is an expert certification. This helps put your case into perspective for the court, meaning it identifies the care you did receive versus what you should have received. In short, you “certify” to the court that your healthcare provider deviated from the traditional standard of care. And it is this departure that directly gave way to your injury.
What the Law Says
The expert certification must be provided to the court within 90 days of filing your malpractice case. If that deadline is overlooked, your case will need a timely extension from the court or it will be dismissed. Once the expert certification is filed, your case can proceed in civil court just as any other case might.
In addition to helping the court understand the subtle nuances of your case, expert certification serves another purpose. It keeps frivolous medical malpractice claims from clogging an already busy legal system. You’re likely thinking at this point an expert certification sounds difficult to obtain, but don’t worry. An experienced medical malpractice law firm will help you meet this crucial requirement.
Who Is Considered a Qualified Expert?
Every state has slightly different standards a “qualified expert” must meet. In Maryland, this person is usually a medical professional board-certified in the field of medicine most relevant to the case. To illustrate, a medical malpractice claim concerning diabetes would likely require the expert knowledge of an endocrinologist.
The Maryland Courts & Judicial Proceedings Code section 3-2C-01 specifies a qualified expert should be a medical professional with knowledge of accepted care standards in the same or similar field as the licensed professional named in the malpractice lawsuit. This means if the defendant is a cardiologist, the qualified expert will likely need very similar training and/or credentials.
An Important Detail
It’s important to understand any professional who provides the expert certification cannot give more than 25% of their time toward doing so. The courts in Baltimore will in fact reject the certificate if the professional exceeds this limit in testifying in personal injury claims. In short, your case will need an expert certification from a professional who rarely testifies on behalf of plaintiffs.
Your lawyer will look for specific qualifications when choosing the professional to certify your case. To illustrate, that professional will likely have a current medical license and a history of an active practice where they have treated similar patients.
It’s also helpful for a professional to have recent medical teaching experience in their chosen field of medicine. And, finally, your lawyer will look for an expert who spends little time consulting on medical malpractice claims, and more time practicing medicine. Again, this is to satisfy the requirement of state courts.
Contents of the Expert Certification
Different cases may demand different elements be included in the expert certification. For a medical malpractice claim, a physician must generally state they have reviewed your medical records and that, in their professional opinion, the defendant likely acted in a negligent manner when treating you. The expert physician will likely prepare a report comprised of the following details:
- A list of all the medical records reviewed
- An explanation of the medical standard of care that should have been followed
- A clearly-stated opinion that the defendant failed to uphold a reasonable standard of care
- An opinion that a serious medical injury resulted from the defendant’s negligence
- The medical reasoning behind these claims
Proving the Standard of Care
The medical standard of care provides a ruler that helps measure a provider’s conduct. Simply put, a doctor is legally obligated to give a patient the same level of care that another competent and similarly-trained medical professional would provide.
A key task of the expert witness is to demonstrate the applicable standard of care the defendant should have followed. To do this, the witness will answer a critical question: What would a prudent health care provider, working in the same or similar field as the defendant, have done under the same circumstances? This means the witness will need to explain certain factors, such as:
- The medical issues that should have been considered
- The tests that should have been used to identify and address specific health issues
- The course of treatment that should have been selected
Proving the Standard of Care Was Breached
Once the expert witness proves the standard of care, they must offer an opinion regarding the defendant’s actions. In other words, the expert witness will try to explain to the court how the defendant failed to act in a reasonably acceptable way. This can range from making a physical mistake during surgery to failing to properly diagnose a certain condition and everything in between. The expert will have to testify that had the standard of care been complied with, the injury, more likely than not, would not have occured.
Two Sides to Every Case
The expert witness will review every detail of the case, including your medical records, to advocate on your behalf. Meanwhile, the defendant will likely hire their own expert witness to refute your argument.
Each side will likewise present a thorough explanation for how your injury came about. Your side, of course, will argue the defendant deviated from the medical standard of care, while the defendant will argue their actions aligned with that standard. The defendant may also argue that your injury was caused by some other factor, or that you were not injured at all. The court will then make a decision based on the so-called “battle of the experts.”
Understanding Important Terms
Once you speak to a medical malpractice law firm, you’ll likely hear legal terms that make little sense. One of these terms is “reasonable degree of probability or certainty.” This simply means the expert witness for your case believes their opinion is more than likely correct. In turn, that expert does not have to testify they are certain the defendant made a mistake.
You may also hear the words Maryland’s Rule 5-702. This rule essentially states that for expert testimony to be admissible in court, it must be supported by a sufficient factual basis. The term factual basis is pretty vague, but Rule 5-702 eliminates any confusion with the following two subfactors:
- The expert’s opinion must be backed by an adequate supply of data
- That same opinion must also be rooted in reliable methodology
Every medical malpractice case filed in Maryland must be accompanied by an expert certification. This adds credence to your case and also helps the court understand complicated medical information. But before you even reach this step, you must first have legal representation. The right attorney can ensure your case meets all of the court’s requirements and also fight for your full and fair compensation. Learn more by contacting Peter Angelos Law today.