How does a Thoracic expert witness support the medico-legal process?

Thoracic surgery expert witnesses can provide support in a wide variety of cases.

A thoracic surgery expert is a specialist in the thorax, which is the upper part of the body, between the neck and abdomen. The thoracic cavity is surrounded by the rib cage and includes vital organs such as the heart and lungs. 

As with any specialism, thoracic surgeons are highly trained in this field. They’ve undertaken sub-specialist training in thoracic surgery and generally work as a consultant within a hospital. You can find out more about thoracic conditions and the work of a thoracic expert witness on our dedicated thoracic surgery page.

In this blog post, we will look at three scenarios where you might require a thoracic expert witness to provide legal testimony in court and the likely evidence they would need to present in court.

Thoracic medico-legal expert witnesses in road traffic accidents

A thoracic expert witness might be required to provide medico-legal report services for a court case following a road traffic accident.

Statistics show that between 60-70% of thoracic traumas are a result of a road traffic accident. In many cases, the thorax injuries come from a seat belt, but there may also be damage to the diaphragm, ribs or vital organs as a result of excessive force.

In these cases, the expert witness will provide a legal medical testimony and through their professional knowledge and expertise. They will provide an expert opinion regarding the extent of the injury, the cause of the injury and the long-term implications.

The expert will need to prove a causal relationship between the accident and the thoracic injury. They would be required to convince the judge that the accident led to or exacerbated the thoracic condition. 

Part of the medico-legal expert witness process would involve a review of the medical records and carrying out diagnostic or imaging tests to support the diagnosis and the connection to the accident.

If ongoing treatment was required, the thoracic expert witness would confirm the appropriateness of the treatments and ensure it is in line with standard medical practice. They would also offer professional insights as to the patient’s long-term prognosis following the injury.

thoracic surgery expert witness

Thoracic medico-legal expert witnesses in workplace injury cases

If an individual sustains a thoracic injury at work, they might be eligible for damages if the accident was caused by health and safety standards not being met. 

Examples of thoracic injuries in the workplace include:

  • Chest trauma such as a fall or collision
  • Lung conditions as a result of exposure to harmful substances which contribute to asthma or pneumoconiosis
  • Repetitive strain injury which is common when an individual’s role is physically demanding and involves repetitive actions over time
  • Workplace accidents such as falling from machinery
  • Chemical exposure which can cause respiratory issues if working with hazardous chemicals 

An employee might raise a legal case if they require damages to cover loss of earnings or the ongoing impact on their life. If the injury impacts their social life and overall mental wellbeing, then damages could be awarded to compensate for the reduced of quality of their life. 

When providing expert medical advice for lawyers, the thoracic expert witness needs to determine a causal relationship between the workplace accident and the injuries sustained. They would review the injury claim medical report, confirm the ongoing prognosis for the claimant and whether the proposed financial settlement will cover the loss of earnings to date, future loss of earnings and the impact this injury has caused to the individual’s quality of life.

Thoracic medico-legal expert witnesses in clinical negligence cases

All surgery carries a level of risk, however it’s important to investigate any claims of clinical negligence or possible breach of professional standards. This may include a surgical error, misdiagnosis, delayed treatment or inadequate care. 

An error during thoracic surgery might cause damage to the surrounding organs. This might include leaving a surgical instrument in the patient or not fitting a medical device correctly, such as a pacemaker, implant or artificial heart valve.

A thoracic surgeon might also misdiagnose a lung condition, such as lung cancer or pneumonia, which could lead to treatment being delayed or the patient not being offered the correct treatment. Equally, a patient might experience additional suffering or complications if anaesthesia isn’t administered correctly during surgery.

Negligence can also occur in postoperative care, such as failing to monitor the patient’s recovery, prescription errors or failing to detect complications due to inadequate follow-up.

When acting as a clinical negligence medical expert, a thoracic expert witness would use their professional expertise and specialist medical training to help the judge answer the following questions:

  • Was the standard of care given to the patient what you would expect from an experienced thoracic surgeon?
  • Is there a causal relationship between the alleged clinical negligence and the injury?  They must be able to demonstrate how the negligence caused the patient’s condition to worsen.
  • Did the clinician give the appropriate treatment according to the thoracic standards and guidelines? 
  • Were the medical records, diagnostic tests and treatment plans documented correctly?
  • Was the prognosis assessment for the patient correct and does it accurately reflect the impact of the alleged clinical negligence?

Instructing a thoracic medico-legal expert witness

We have a very experienced thoracic surgeon on our expert panel, Mr Vijay Joshi. Having worked as a Consultant in the NHS since 2018, Mr Joshi also conducts medico-legal expert witness work and can advise on personal injury, clinical negligence and criminal cases. Find out more about Mr Joshi here.

 

How to instruct a thoracic expert witness

Our highly knowledgeable Thoracic Surgery Expert Witnesses can assist with your personal injury case. To find out more please call us on 01865 587865, email office@expertcourtreports.co.uk, or request a call by completing our online form. We will arrange a time for you to speak to the relevant Thoracic Surgeon who will listen to the case details and advise the best way forward.