How Oral And Maxillofacial Surgeon Expert Witnesses Help Courts Determine Liability And Quantum

Oral and Maxillofacial Expert Witnesses in Liability and Quantum

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery bridges the gap between dentistry and surgery. It is a specialised field of medicine focusing on diagnosing and treating diseases, injuries, and defects affecting the head, neck, face, jaw, and the hard and soft tissues of the oral and maxillofacial region. In personal injury and medical negligence cases, Oral and Maxillofacial (OMF) Surgeons can provide crucial expert opinions that can assist the Court in determining liability, rehabilitation, and quantum of damages.

What is the role of an Oral And Maxillofacial Surgeon?

OMF Surgeons are highly trained professionals who complete both medical and dental degrees, followed by extensive surgical training, focusing on a range of procedures from dental implant surgery to complex craniofacial reconstruction. They are frequently called upon to provide expert evidence in cases where facial injuries have occurred, and the Claimant is arguing negligence.

What are the skills required of an Oral and Maxillofacial expert witness?

OMF Surgeons must meet specific criteria to qualify as expert witnesses. This includes demonstrating thorough medical knowledge, substantial professional experience, and an understanding of the judicial process. They are expected to provide unbiased, evidence-based opinions and adhere strictly to the guidelines set by the Civil Procedure Rules and other guidelines regarding expert witnesses.

How does an OMF Surgeon assess a patient and prepare an expert report?

An OMF Surgeon will conduct a thorough assessment of the patient. This involves a detailed review of their medical history, medical imaging, and, if necessary, a physical examination. In non-technical language, the expert report will outline the assessment’s findings, the injury’s cause, the treatment provided, and the patient’s prognosis.
You can expect an OMF Surgeon’s expert report to set out:

  • The nature and extent of the facial injury.
  • The impact of the injury on the claimant’s life.
  • Any potential for future surgery or treatment.
  • The prognosis, including any long-term complications.

How can Oral and Maxillofacial expert witnesses assist the Court with establishing liability?

OMF Surgeons’ evidence is crucial in cases where there is a dispute over the standard of care provided. By outlining the accepted medical practices and comparing them with the care the Claimant received, they help establish whether there was a breach of duty. This is especially important in medical negligence cases. The case of Bolam v Friern Hospital Management Committee [1957] 1 WLR 583 established the standard of care owed by medical professionals to their patients (referred to as the ‘Bolam test’). Mr Justice McNair stated that a professional would not be in breach of their duty of care if they acted in a manner which was in accordance with practices accepted as proper by a responsible body of other medical professionals with expertise in that particular area. If this is established, it does not matter that others with expertise, including an expert witness, would disagree with the practice.

Additionally, OMF Surgeons are vital in linking a breach of duty to the injuries sustained, i.e. establishing causation.

How does an OMF Surgeon acting as an expert witness help the Court with quantum and rehabilitation matters?

In quantifying damages, OMF Surgeons assess not only the immediate medical costs but also the patient’s long-term needs. This may include ongoing surgical care, physical therapy, and other forms of rehabilitation. Their expert testimony can delineate the scope of future medical interventions and the associated costs, which are critical for accurately determining compensation.

They also play a critical role in assessing and reporting on the rehabilitation needs of patients. This process is integral to ensuring the Court and where the Rehabilitation Code 2015 is being followed, the parties themselves understand the full extent of the patient’s medical and rehabilitation requirements, thus enabling a more accurate determination of future care costs and compensation.

To assess rehabilitation requirements, an OMF Surgeon will comprehensively evaluate the patient’s current clinical status and projected recovery trajectory. They will consider the specific nature of the facial injuries, including bone, soft tissue, and dental components, and how these affect functional outcomes such as chewing, speech, and overall facial aesthetics. Their expert report can include a tailored rehabilitation plan that may consist of surgical interventions, dental treatment, physical therapy, and psychotherapy, depending on the complexity and severity of the injuries. For instance, ongoing reconstructive surgeries might be necessary to restore function and appearance, while physiotherapy could be essential for regaining muscle control and reducing scarring.

Final words

The role of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon Expert Witnesses provides the Courts with essential insights into the nature of facial injuries, the required treatments, where liability falls, and the implications for the patient’s future life and economic/career prospects.

We have several Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon Expert Witnesses who can provide evidence in personal injury and medical negligence claims for both the Claimant and Defence. Our team can also provide expert reports on chronic pain as well as psychological matters.

 

Expert Court Reports provides expert witnesses and medicolegal court reports for solicitors, barristers and other agencies, including the police, probation services, prisons, third-sector organisations, and private clients. To discuss any issues raised in this article, please call us on 01865 587865, email office@expertcourtreports.co.uk, or request a call by completing our online form.