How Do You Find a Qualified Expert Witness?
We will discuss several ways to find good or bad expert witnesses, who will win or lose your case. Each way has its advantages and disadvantages. Experts that appear to be the least expensive, and easiest to engage their services, may turn out to be the most expensive, if they lose your case. Here is how to avoid the common pitfalls.
The Local Doctor
You may approach several doctors you know to act as your medical expert witness. Or, maybe a local doctor has told you privately that the doctor you are suing is a butcher, who made a mess of your surgery. You are pretty sure you can get one of them to help you, but do not count on it. A doctor usually cannot afford to testify against his local colleagues or hospitals, if he values his practice and income. It is not realistic to expect him to do so. Chances are he will refuse to help you.
Even if a local doctor offers to help you, he will probably change his mind, when he realizes his participation in your case could permanently damage his career. A verbal promise of assistance from a local doctor, who will not put anything in writing, is a sign that he is not going to help. If a doctor has told you that one of his colleagues botched your case, ask him to give you a letter setting forth his opinion. No matter how critical the local doctor may have been when talking to you in private, you will find that he likely will not put his criticism in writing, as your medical expert witness. If you ask him for his opinion in the presence of a witness, he will deny he ever said it.
A famous malpractice lawyer once said, “Almost no physician would testify that a colleague had blundered. In the privacy of his office, a doctor might tell you that a certain brother of the scalpel was a blunderer who, in his gross incompetency, had maimed his patient. However, on the witness stand, he would perjure himself in firm tones, declaring the defendant to be a skilled surgeon, exercising his best medical judgment.” Even when they are willing to back-up their opinions and testify, local doctors are notorious for their tendency to disappear, or be otherwise unavailable for trial, or change their minds at the last moment and refuse to testify, or to “take a nose dive” (change their testimony on the witness stand.)
The Rule Is: Reputable physicians will rarely testify against their local colleagues, and one who will is probably a maverick, who does not have the professional standing or reputation in the medical community to impress a jury.
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