Virginia: Medical Malpractice – a Lawyer’s Experts (January 16, 2011)

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During January 29-February 1, 2011, Mr. Waterman travels to Montana for the discovery deposition of one of his medical malpractice experts in Marshall v. Moniz, et al., No. CL08-2018 in Circuit Court for the County of York and Town of Poquoson, Virginia. Plaintiff patient in Marshall went in for routine out-patient surgery for incisional hernia repair, but instead ended up hospitalized for 8 months straight, incurred $1,000,000.00 in medical bills, and was disabled permanently; for which he seeks $12,350,000.00 in damages.

The Montana expert deposition in Marshall highlights two significant impediments to a patient maintaining a medical malpractice lawsuit in Virginia and elsewhere. The first is the relative scarcity of quality experts who are willing to testify for patients; the second is the substantial cost of pursuing a claim.

It has been coined that there is a “conspiracy of silence” and a “circling of wagons” by doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers when it comes to testifying as a patient expert in a medical malpractice case. Most Virginia doctors will not even consider testifying for any patient, regardless the case’s merits; such that victim patients often have to rely upon experts who reside and practice out-of-state.

Second, when serving as experts, doctors typically charge $300.00 – $1,000.00 per hour for all time spent on a medical malpractice case, from record review to conference, from deposition to travel, and everything else. Moreover, experts being located afar incurs significant cost to the Plaintiff patient for travel, accommodations, etc., in addition to valuable attorneys time.

Conversely, Virginia and other healthcare defendants in a medical malpractice case have a comparatively easy time with experts. Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers will testify in favor of a colleague much more readily; plus the defendant is backed financially by the much deeper pockets of his insurance company and/or healthcare institution.