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How to Find an Expert Witness For Your Medical Malpractice Case

Doctor covering his face with hand.

Medical malpractice cases often come down to a battle of the experts. Many jurisdictions require plaintiffs to provide expert certification at the outset just to file a medical malpractice case, while defendants will need to offer an opposing expert in order to avoid losing on summary judgment. The more convincing your expert is, the more likely you are to win the case. For that reason, it’s important to find the best expert for your case.

The forensic psychiatry practice at Orbit Health makes the expert witness search process much easier. We can connect you with psychiatric research and care experts in any specialty without regard for locational limitations. If you are in need of a psychiatric care expert to diagnose a plaintiff’s condition, evaluate potential damages, establish a party’s fitness to stand trial, or opine whether a physician committed malpractice in their treatment of a patient, Orbit Health is ready to help.

Education and Qualifications

The effectiveness (and even admissibility) of an expert’s testimony turns heavily on their education and qualifications. You need an expert who attended a legitimate university, who obtained advanced credentials in relevant areas, and who has served admirably in their field for some time. Credibility is key to an effective expert, and a hefty resume is a very useful shortcut for demonstrating credibility.

Prior Research, Reports

In addition to university and fellowship credentials, credible experts have typically published papers in peer-reviewed journals on issues relevant to the case. Look to your proposed expert’s prior research, to the reports, articles, and books that they have published, and other public expressions of their craft they have made. It’s important to evaluate not only whether your expert has a healthy list of relevant knowledge and peer-reviewed opinions, but also to make sure that your expert has not publicly taken a position opposing your side of the case.

If you are defending a physician who performed a specific procedure, for example, you do not want to hire an expert who wrote an article explaining why that procedure is an example of quack medicine. Even if they will say the opposite now, opposing counsel will have a wonderful time pointing out how easy it is to change your witness’s opinion on a key matter by paying them for their time.

Experience and Specialty

It’s important to focus your search on someone who has relevant experience and training in the exact subject matter at issue in your case. If you present a well-educated general psychiatric care expert witness in a case involving the treatment of a grief-stricken patient who committed suicide, and your opposing counsel brings out a grief and trauma specialist with experience dealing with suicidal patients, the jury will be immediately drawn to the testimony of your opponent.

Endeavor to understand the precise issues that will factor into your case and then search for a psychiatric expert in that precise arena. You might even wish to retain a psychiatry consultant early on in the case to help you identify the type of expert you will want to bring in down the line to provide expert testimony.

Testimonial Experience

Experience in court can cut both ways for an expert. If an expert witness has dozens of trials under their belt, a jury might start to see them as simply a hired gun rather than an actual impartial expert on the medical issue at hand. On the other hand, even the smartest medical expert will do nothing to help your case if they cannot express themselves calmly and clearly, or if they crumble under aggressive questioning by opposing counsel.

As you search for an expert witness or vet a potential hire, look at their case history. Have they testified many times before? Have their opinions ever been thrown out by a judge, and if so, why? Do they tend to testify on the winning side? Have they ever testified or generated a report that directly contradicts the position you are taking in the instant case? Nothing disqualifies an expert in the eyes of a jury faster than finding out the expert miraculously held the exact opposite opinion three years ago when someone else was paying them. It’s a delicate balance, but you need to find an expert who can perform in the courtroom without coming across like a professional witness rather than as an educated scientist.

If you are a litigant in need of expert mental health testimony, or a healthcare provider who would benefit from a variety of seasoned psychiatric care specialists, reach out to Orbit Health to discuss your options for telepsychiatry today.

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