Medical malpractice is a serious claim, and the consequences of a malpractice case going to trial can be dire for both the doctor and hospital and the patient (plaintiff). Because of the exceptionally high financial liability involved with medical malpractice, legal teams for both the plaintiff and defendant spare no expense when preparing for court. One of the popular strategies employed by lawyers is engaging an expert witness in the relevant field to testify under oath about whether proper standards of practice were followed by the defendant.
Expert witnesses are highly respected, and highly paid, resources that are chosen for their ability to convince indecisive juries and back up vital claims made by the plaintiff and other witnesses. Likewise, a defense expert is crucial in helping a jury to understand an intricate case. It is especially important to not waste this resource and to have the proper questions ready to ensure maximum effectiveness.
Establishing Credibility as a Witness
A surgical medical malpractice expert should have all the qualifications necessary to stand before a judge and reliably give an unbiased and professional opinion. They must also be able to confidently face a cross-examination without breaking under pressure. Keeping this in mind, when assessing a potential surgical medical malpractice expert make sure to ask them about why they believe they are qualified to fill that role. Ask questions that test their knowledge in the field and assess their ability to recount from memory even the minutest details about the surgery or operation in question.
You want to be sure your expert can hold his own against the most intense questioning possible. When assessing this candidate, make sure they don’t flinch away from embarrassment or questions that start to get personal. Remember, the entire case could rely on the ability of this person to stand behind their words.
Weaknesses of a Potential Expert
There are some things you will want to watch out for when screening a potential expert and asking some additional questions early on will help weed out the good experts from the ones that may hurt your case. A good expert witness must be completely impartial to the outcome of the trial. Asking if the expert has any personal ties to anyone involved in the malpractice case is an easy way to filter out any potential witness from taking the stand. Another good question is asking if they have any financial motivations for influencing the case, which would immediately disqualify any testimony the expert could give.
Any former personal history with the physician, hospital, or clinic involved in the case can also hurt the expert’s credibility. All it takes is the slightest inkling there is bad blood between the expert witness and the defending institution and instantly they are no longer an impartial professional. The same holds true for a defense expert’s relationship with the defendant.
Qualifications as an Expert
One of the most straightforward questions to ask is “what qualifies you to testify as an expert?” This leading question will allow the potential surgical malpractice expert to sell themselves and highlight their qualifications in the field. Some similar questions along this line could be “how long have you worked in the field?” Or another, “have you served as an expert witness in this capacity before?” These are all important things to know well ahead of time.
A proper surgical medical malpractice expert should have a long and well-established career working as a surgeon, accompanied by experience serving on a board of medical ethics at a hospital. Experience with the proceedings of a morbidity and mortality committee is also highly sought-after. Remember, the key here is that they should be an expert, able to convince everyone in the room they know everything there is to know about medical malpractice.
Preparation for the Stand
One thing that is important to consider is that the expert will be subject to cross-examination by opposing counsel. It should be explicitly clear that the witness will have nothing to hide and is willing and capable of answering any questions asked while on the stand. This is where a little background research would be helpful, as it would help to filter out any potential experts who have skeletons in their closets that could potentially ruin their testimony. If an expert witness refuses to answer a question out of embarrassment or fear of consequences for their words, then they have failed to serve their most vital function.
What is most important of all in a potential expert witness is their commitment, to tell the truth, and the dedication they have to remain honest. Medical malpractice is not an issue to be taken lightly, and because of that, it is absolutely necessary to have a witness that is steadfast in their commitment to the cold, hard truth. Sugar-coating their answers will help no one since the role of an expert is not to paint a picture of the defendant’s character but to be more of an encyclopedia of knowledge that can be relied upon.
Potential experts in surgical medical malpractice should possess traits that establish their credibility to a jury and should be seen by all to be qualified to give an expert opinion on the subject. Make sure to ask questions to expose any weaknesses in potential candidates, and also questions that highlight their strengths.
Nobody wants any surprises in the reliability of their expert on the day of the trial. With due diligence and extensive research, a surgical medical malpractice expert can lend a great deal of strength to arguments made in court.
Please contact us for an appointment if you or someone you know requires the assistance of a colorectal surgical medical malpractice expert.