The Role of Orthopaedic Expert Witnesses

Expert witnesses in orthopaedics can review a range of medical cases

For legal professionals handling medical negligence, workplace accidents, personal injury, and criminal cases, it is important to engage a medical specialist with the necessary specific knowledge, experience, and skills to draft an expert witness report. For those managing cases involving any aspect of the human musculoskeletal system, which includes the nerves, bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons, the specialist knowledge of an orthopaedic expert witness may be essential to build a robust legal argument. In this article, we will discuss the role of an Orthopaedic expert witness, the types of cases they help in, and why their knowledge and experience are essential to securing the successful outcome of a legal case.

Types of orthopaedic injuries and diseases

Expert witnesses in orthopaedics are highly adept at reviewing medical cases by analysing clinical notes and documentation and assessing patients in person. The range of injuries and diseases that orthopaedic surgeons deal with is considerable and includes:

  • Back and neck pain
  • Bone tumours
  • Broken bones
  • Bursitis
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Hip fracture
  • Joint reconstruction
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Torn meniscus

While orthopaedic injuries and diseases of the human musculoskeletal system occur commonly because of ageing, accidents, disease, and other causes for which there is no liability, in some cases, they may result due to the action or inaction of a person or organisation.

Why engage a specialist orthopaedic expert witness?

Orthopaedic expert witnesses are far from medical generalists; on the contrary, they have extensive experience as registered and qualified orthopaedic surgeons, many dealing with sub-specialties within the field, including:

  • Emergency or trauma orthopaedics
  • Hand Surgery
  • Joint replacement
  • Paediatric orthopaedics
  • Spinal surgery
  • Sports Medicine

Each sub-specialty requires a unique set of medical knowledge and skills, and it is the finer level of detail that specialising orthopaedic surgeons can provide that makes their input in legal cases so valuable. For example, a sports medicine orthopaedic surgeon understands how participation in different sports leads to certain types of progressive and traumatic injuries of the musculoskeletal system. Likewise, a specialist in orthopaedic trauma understands how sudden impacts, such as those in the workplace or in a road traffic accident, can cause spinal, bone, muscle, or other musculoskeletal damage and the likely prognosis of patients.

In what types of legal cases may an orthopaedic expert witness play a key role?

Given that impairment of the musculoskeletal system can occur slowly over time or as a result of a sudden trauma, the ability of an orthopaedic expert witness surgeon to assess the likely cause, whether there are underlying medical factors, and whether the person will recover and to what extent, among other useful information, is extremely useful in determining the outcome of legal cases. The information they provide may be vital in establishing, for example, whether:

  • An orthopaedic injury occurred due to workplace negligence – this may be a degenerative injury which occurs slowly over time, e.g., carpal tunnel syndrome or spinal disc compression due to poor workstation set up, or due to a sudden trauma, e.g., falling object or lifting an excessively heavy item without the necessary training.
  • An orthopaedic surgeon caused unnecessary harm when carrying out a joint replacement or another form of surgery
  • Knee damage occurred because of an excessively strong tackle during a rugby match
  • Serious musculoskeletal damage occurred following a fall in a public place due to poor ground conditions, lack of signage, ice etc.
  • Where it is suspected that a child has suffered a bone fracture as a result of physical abuse
  • Criminal cases where it is unclear who caused an orthopaedic injury to a victim
  • Cases of suspected benefit fraud where it is necessary to confirm a claimed injury and the likely impact of this on the individual – i.e., whether the person can return to work.

Where it is necessary to establish liability, the evidence that an orthopaedic expert witness provides can be used to apply the relevant legal test, e.g. in medical negligence cases, whether the organisation or individual had a duty of care, they acted in a manner that was negligent, and the orthopaedic damage resulted from this negligence.

The ability and knowledge possessed by orthopaedic expert witnesses can often make the difference between a successful case outcome and one that does not achieve the intended results for the client concerned. The orthopaedic expert witness report we produce on behalf of your client will be drafted to be as clear and digestible as possible for those without medical ability. In addition, because our orthopaedic expert witnesses are also trained in medicolegal practice, they will ensure that the report meets the standards and procedure rules required by the court.

Talk to our experts

Please call us on 01865 587865, email, or request a call by completing our online form to learn more about our Orthopaedic expert witnesses and reports.