Individuals who sustain injury because of medical negligence naturally face challenges because of the technical nature of their cases. First, local medical practitioners are reluctant to testify against others in their field. Additionally, recent Florida statutes have imposed guidelines so stringent that many expert witnesses with valid evidence to present may not qualify to testify.
In 2011, the legislature passed a law preventing out-of-state expert witnesses from testifying without first obtaining certification from the Florida Department of Health. Then in 2013, the governor signed SB 1792 into law, with provisions the medical community welcomed, despite the potentially detrimental implications for injured patients fighting for medical malpractice compensation. The new bill requires expert witnesses to meet the following criteria:
Specializing in the same specialty field as the defendant
Devoting professional time during the three years preceding the complaint to certain activities connected to that specialty
While these two points may seem reasonable on the surface, it is important to understand that the legislation formerly permitted testimony by expert witnesses with similar specialties to the defendant — and the current legislation eliminates a clause allowing the trial court to qualify or disqualify an expert witness based on other grounds, essentially removing judicial latitude from the process.
The governor signed this bill into law with the intention of improving the Florida business climate and in an effort to help ensure the availability of jobs for families in the state. However, it also adds challenges for individuals seeking justice when they sustain injuries resulting from medical negligence.