A medical malpractice expert is a witness who is qualified, by education or experience, to testify at a personal injury trial alleging medical malpractice. Within the United States, medical malpractice is a tort action, in which the plaintiff who is injured sues the doctor in civil court and attempts to recover monetary damages. The plaintiff must prove his case, and he can do so with the help of a medical malpractice expert witness who is called to testify.
There are two major reasons for medical malpractice lawsuits to be brought. The first is less common and involves litigation when a doctor failed to obtain lack of informed consent. Patients have a right to be made aware of the risks and benefits of any medical procedure, as well as of any potential alternatives, and then the patient has a right to determine whether he wants to continue with the procedure. If a doctor fails to explain his actions or doesn't get permission or truly informed consent, he can be subject to a malpractice lawsuit.
The more common type of medical malpractice litigation occurs when a doctor fails to behave with the level of care expected. All doctors must perform with a degree of skill appropriate from a reasonably qualified doctor. If a doctor falls short of this duty and fails to behave with reasonable competence, he can be sued and found guilty of medical malpractice.
To prove a case, therefore, the plaintiff must prove the doctor did not act with the legally required level of skill. A medical malpractice expert is essential to proving, or disproving, that fact. The medical malpractice expert must be someone who can speak of and attest to the reasonable level of skill and who can comment on how the doctor's behavior compared with that minimum standard.
Generally, a physician or other such expert is called upon to be a medical malpractice expert. He can then issue his own medical opinion about what a competent doctor would have done, and perform a medical evaluation and exam to determine whether the doctor on trial behaved improperly. Generally, he must have a high level of skill and experience within the field to assess whether the actions and behavior of the other doctor were inappropriate or not. The court may have to certify him as an expert, which means it may need to agree that the witness' skills, experience, background and education are such that they qualify him to be an expert and issue his opinion to a jury.