Why Expert Opinion is Important

Nearly every dental malpractice claim requires expert testimony.  Experts help determine the requisite standard of care, whether or not that standard was met, and, if so, if a deviation caused the injury complained of by the plaintiff.  Expert deposition and trial testimony are critical.

So, who is qualified to be an expert?  Before Georgia’s 2005 tort reform statute, Georgia law was extremely liberal in permitting expert testimony to be placed into evidence.  In fact, before tort reform, under O.C.G.A. § 24-9-67, “opinions of experts on any question of science, skill, trade, or like questions shall always be admissible.”

Today, under Georgia law, an expert’s testimony must be both (1) relevant and (2) reliable.  Experts must render an opinion that educates the jury on the relevant standard of care, if the defendant breached that standard, and if the breach caused the plaintiff injury.  If an expert is able to meet this criteria, then that expert’s testimony will probably be admitted into evidence and placed before a jury.

An expert who practices in a certain area, relevant to the issues formulating the allegations in a lawsuit, will be more persuasive.  An expert who does not have a high level of competency will be exposed on the deposition, at trial, and maybe excluded from testifying at all.  Many times dental cases are won or lost based on the effectiveness of expert testimony.  Having a qualified expert, who knows the medicine and understands the assertions in a complaint, can be the difference between a successful and unsuccessful result.  Therefore, wisely choose experts.

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