Bringing Anesthesiology and Law Together, Conceptually and Factually

Finding, Selecting, and Collaborating with a Medical Expert

Each medical negligence case has different needs depending on the complexity of the case and the variety of disciplines involved. Written hospital and departmental policies and procedures, published professional society standards and guidelines and the medical literature will provide a good basis for establishing the standard of care. In addition, expert medical testimony is also usually required to establish the standard of care, the breach of the standard of care and causation. The testimony of a practitioner in the same field as the defendant will ordinarily be required.

Generally speaking, there are six ways to find a medical expert. Each individual attorney will have his or her own preference to utilize some or all of these methods.

  1. Authors of medical literature;
  2. Referrals by attorneys;
  3. Referrals by other experts;
  4. Internet research;
  5. Expert services and directories; and
  6. A jury verdict reporter.

Once you determine the expert disciplines you require, there are a few qualities to consider.

  • Academician or private practice clinician
    • Academicians often have a long list of research publications and teaching experience on their CV. Private practice physicians, however, have more “hands-on” practical experience.
  • Level of forensic experience
    • An experienced expert witness generally knows what to look for, can perform a complete yet succinct analysis and can usually offer suggestions for case development and overcoming the opponent’s arguments and/or strategies. Less experienced experts may require more support from counsel but will less likely be accused of being a professional witness by the opposition.

The following are some tips to optimize collaboration with your medical expert:

  1. Remain credible and straightforward to build trust; avoiding embellishment will build credibility;
  2. Send organized, complete and updated medical records as they become available;
  3. Consult with your expert before drafting interrogatories and developing deposition questions;
  4. Provide your expert with the opponent’s relevant discovery responses and deposition transcripts;
  5. Prepare with your expert before deposition and/or trial testimony, including any prior testimony given by the expert on the same issue; the degree of preparation needed will vary with the forensic experience of your expert.
  6. Call the expert with any questions about underlying facts or anticipated challenges.

My career arc through law and medicine enhances my effectiveness as an expert. My hands-on practical experience providing anesthesia to patients, combined with my understanding of legal theory and procedure, provides attorneys who hire me an added value dimension of service. I encourage consultation as you draft interrogatories or prepare deposition questions. I will review the opponent’s discovery responses. If requested, I will participate in focus groups and mock trials offering suggestions as you prepare your case. Call me with questions about the underlying facts, exhibits, scope of my opinions and/or anticipated challenges. A robust dialogue between us will further my goal to engage the jury and explain my conclusions using easy-to-understand language and thereby provide impartial, objective, credible and persuasive testimony for your client.