From the 2016 Boardwalk Presentation by Christopher DiGirolamo – Preparing Your Doctor for Direct Examination
So, a client has a serious personal injury that may debilitate them from returning to their job on a long-term basis. Because of this, they have taken the steps to file a personal injury claim. However, things are not as simple as they seem, because you will have to prepare your medical expert for trial to testify their opinion on behalf of the injured plaintiff. This is a very important step, because a judge will hold a lot of weight if a fully confident and experienced medical expert takes the stand to discuss what they believe the extent of the injuries to be.
An Expert Giving an Opinion
Of course, there are techniques that can help a medical expert execute their testimony in the absolute best way. When questioning begins, the medical expert must apply his or her knowledge, skill, experience, training, and overall education to the facts that are known or assumed in the case. All questions asked on behalf of the medical expert must be consistent as to not confuse the witness and mix up their testimony. A clear and concise trail of exactly what happened regarding the personal injury will show the judge a specific timeline of events.
When the medical expert is being questioned, you should always stick to what was discussed during preparation. A slight or tremendous change in the way a question is asked may tip them off and give a different answer. Because of this, clarification may be needed and certain aspects of the case may be tossed, which you never want to happen. Miscommunication should never occur during the actual trial when relevant information is most crucial.
Tips for a Medical Expert Witness
- Over-preparation may give the wrong effect in trial. Giving long, winded answers may make testimony seem fake, fabricated, or even “rehearsed,” which you want to avoid.
- The expert should always maintain good eye contact with the judge.
- When speaking to the judge, you want to be consistent and not too timid. This is why it is important to maintain an even and consistent projecting volume when speaking with the judge.
- Do not partake in any distracting habits such as nail biting, fidgeting with pens or pencils, rocking back and forth, or playing with a watch or jewelry.
General Attacks on the Doctor’s Opinion
In some cases, the adversary may attack the medical expert witness in an attempt to discredit his diagnosis or treatment. Here are some of the ways that this is done through claims:
- The possibility that the doctor based the diagnosis on subjective complaints
- The doctor had not obtained a complete and accurate case history
- The doctor was unaware that the plaintiff once had a prior injury
- The plaintiff may be feigning the injuries and the doctor did not give out any tests to rule on this
If this happens, the medical expert should keep some things in mind. First of all, they should never lose their temper and should always respond courteously to the best of their knowledge in any given circumstance. Fencing or arguing with the opposing lawyer will never give the best outcome. The expert should also keep in mind that, if they are having difficulty during cross-examination, they should never look to the attorney for help – they must come up with the answers in their own regards to which they have been trained for in preparation. This is one of the reasons why preparation is so crucial, because the medical expert should fully understand each question and what they want to answer.
Direct examination of a medical expert can, in many cases, make or break a case. It serves as the best foundation for delivering medical proof and evidence. There should always be a thorough understanding of the medical issues, the client’s injuries, and the doctor’s chart before stepping foot in the courtroom. These are the best tactics for overall success.