The price of medical malpractice insurance contributes to the rising cost of medical care. Before medical malpractice cases go to trial in Arizona, the law attempts to prequalify witnesses by permitting testimony only from expert witnesses whose specialties closely align with the specialties pertaining to a given case.
The law is reasonable in taking measures to ensure that only qualified witnesses testify in a case. However, the legal language is open to interpretation. Pretrial decisions may lead to appeals and the cases can go on to the Arizona Supreme Court. This happened in a recent case that basically boiled down to whether a witness who was a board-certified specialist in internal medicine with a subspecialty in hematology-oncology qualified in a case against a physician who was board-certified in pediatrics with a subspecialty in pediatric hematology-oncology. These differences may seem immaterial to most people. However, the Supreme Court decided in favor of the plaintiff, disqualifying the expert witness.
Considering the complexity of the field of medicine, the expert witnesses called upon can have a dramatic effect on patients who seek justice when they believe medical negligence caused their injuries or other conditions. Operating within the provisions of Arizona law, medical malpractice attorneys face numerous challenges, including the following:
- Depending on the area of medical specialty, few practitioners who exactly match the expertise of the defendant may be available within the geographic region.
- Even when numerous specialists are available, practitioners are often unwilling to testify against a local peer. In the case cited above, 20 pediatric hematology-oncologists chose not to testify.
Medical malpractice lawsuits are particularly complicated. It is essential to retain lawyers who understand medical issues and terminology and have access to an extensive network of medical practitioners who can provide technical advice and testify in court.