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Medical Malpractice in Virginia

February 2006

In July 2005, a new section of law was added to the Virginia Code that changes the environment for medical malpractice legislation. One of the major changes is the new requirement of a “Certification of Expert Witness Opinion” at the time of service of process of any new lawsuit.

This Certification is “a written opinion signed by the expert witness that, based upon a reasonable understanding of the facts, the defendant for whom service of process has been requested deviated from the applicable standard of care and the deviation was a proximate cause of the injuries claimed.” In plain English, this means that when a plaintiff serves a medical malpractice lawsuit on a defendant doctor, the plaintiff needs to have obtained a written opinion from another doctor stating that the defendant deviated from the standard of care and that doing so caused the plaintiff’s injuries.

Although the requirement for a Certification is a significant change in Virginia law, it is not a significant change at Burnett & Williams. It is our practice to always consult with a qualified physician when reviewing medical malpractice cases. After all, we are lawyers, not doctors! Only another physician can give an opinion as to whether a case has merit. We believe that having a doctor review a potential medical malpractice case at the very beginning makes good sense- it is important for you, as well as our firm, to know up front whether your malpractice case is likely to succeed. The July 2005 change to the Virginia Code simply put into law a requirement that was already our practice.