Expert Witnesses: The Difference Between Medical and Forensic
When you think of the phrase “expert witness” chances are you think of someone with medical expertise. While it is true that medical experts are among the most common types of witnesses, you may not necessarily know what they do.
Medical expert witnesses typically testify for malpractice trials and cases where a violent crime took place. Most often medical experts are doctors but they can also be nurses, physician’s assistants, or other medical professionals.
Quite often, the witness will be the medical examiner who evaluated the body during the investigation. They are typically brought in to discuss the cause and manner of death. Whether the client is a plaintiff or a defendant, the testimony of an expert witness may be beneficial.
An experienced and qualified medical expert will be able to examine the facts and materials of the case, including medical records, and provide unbiased testimony. Medical witnesses often prepare written statements, create models, or prepare other visual aids that will assist them in explaining their theories. They can also prepare written reports to present before the court and judge.
Medical experts often rely on their years of personal experience to provide testimony. They may also use their years of academic study and publications they produced over the years. Often times, in order to be considered qualified, medical experts publish works in peer-review journals, so they may turn to some of those works to prove their theory.
When calling upon a medical expert, it’s important to look for someone who can explain the scientific and technical language as well as the specialized jargon so that someone outside the field can understand the key issues of the case.
Forensic medical experts
The term “forensic” means any type of science that can be applied to the law. If you put the two together, forensic experts aren’t all that different from medical experts. Forensic expert witnesses can include chemists, anthropologists, blood spatter analysts, ballistic experts, biologists, psychologists, computer science experts, and criminal behavior experts.
Typically law enforcement agencies have a dedicated team of forensic scientists who analyze evidence and provide testimony in court. When called upon for a trial, forensic scientists have the task of explaining particular pieces of evidence and information that would support the side that called upon them.
Forensic experts are often set apart from other experts because they often, if not always, refer to the direct evidence of the case. A medical expert may provide testimony that concerns a general concern, question, or concept that’s significant to the case on trial, but would not touch on the actual evidence of the current case.
Just like a medical expert, forensic experts must provide honest, unbiased testimony, thus they act as advocates for the evidence itself. If a forensic expert is asked by an attorney to support a theory or opinion that cannot be supported by the evidence itself, then the forensic expert should not testify in that particular trial.