There are several ways to find good or bad medical expert witnesses, who will win or lose your case; each has its advantages and disadvantages. Here is how to avoid the common pitfalls.
The Professional Expert – Part V
A professional expert advertises his or her services as a medical expert witness in legal journals and on the internet. The expert may be a superb witness or a disaster, but he is risky. At first glance, it seems like a good deal; a supposedly, qualified physician, who advertises his services, is willing to assist you. You think you can count on the professional expert to testify and present your side of the argument, in a convincing manner. Before you commit a lot of money to a professional expert, you should check the following websites to verify the expert’s board certification and the expert’s standing with his or her state medical board: certificationmatters.org and docfinder.docboard.org.
- The medical profession controls what a doctor can do in treating patients. But, a doctor can advertise his services in law journals and on the internet and represent himself as anything he wishes, even if his license has been revoked or he has been retired for many years. Among the physicians who, in the past, have advertised their services as expert witnesses: one was in jail for mail fraud; one whose medical license was revoked for fraud; one who advertised himself as an expert in four or five different specialties – the list goes on and on.
It is important to find a good medical expert witness, but the doctor’s past can kill your case. Defense lawyers also read law journals and malpractice insurance companies keep extensive records on physicians, who testify against them. The fact that a physician has advertised his services to the legal profession means that he can be branded a professional expert witness, or a hired gun, by the opposing lawyer. If there is anything professional or personal in his background that can be used to discredit him, the defense lawyer will know about it and smear a professional expert witness in front of the jury.
- Professional experts can be expensive. It can cost thousands of dollars to have a professional expert study your medical records and tell you whether you have a meritorious case, with no assurance that he or she will testify for you in court.
- Some professional experts are unscrupulous and will demand huge increases in their fees after you have already paid them, and it is too late to find a substitute expert. In a Louisiana case, a lawyer hired a professional expert to testify in a drug overdose case. The expert spent the week before trial helping the lawyer prepare the case and then suggested calling another professional expert, who his friend. The night before trial, the two doctors went to the lawyer and said they would not testify the next day, if they were not paid right then. One demanded and received $7,000.00 and the other $10,000.00.
- The professional expert has no back-up. If the court refuses to recognize him as an expert, or he drops out, or you find that his past is too unsavory, the money you have spent is lost, and you are back to square one – maybe at a critical point in your case, when it is too late to find a replacement expert.
The Rule Is: Before you hire an expert witness, obtain a copy of his curriculum vitae and verify his credentials. If he is a phony, you can be sure the defense lawyer knows about it and will use it to destroy your case.
Contact us at 800-225-JDMD (5363) to have your malpractice cases reviewed by JD.MD’s qualified medical experts and dental experts.