Three Characteristics of a Great Surgical Medical Expert Witness

Medically reviewed by: lacolon2016

Three Characteristics of a Great Surgical Medical Expert WitnessIf you are reading this, chances are something in your recent medical history has gone wrong, and you are hoping to launch a malpractice suit against a surgeon. Or, perhaps, you are an attorney looking closely at a case, whether it is a defense or a plaintiff’s case. A crucial piece of the process is to find the best surgical medical expert available.

A surgical medical expert can provide professional and expert testimony should your case go to trial, and help you decide whether you have a case worth pursuing. A great medical expert witness can also provide you with important information that can help you determine how to proceed.

There are three main characteristics you should look for when seeking a first-rate surgical medical expert witness to help you throughout this challenging time.

Relevant Academic and Professional Credentials

To ensure that you are dealing with the best expert available, make sure you research the background of any medical witness recommended to you. Do they have published work?

Are they appointed to a faculty of a well-regarded university? Is their work focused on the surgical procedure that applies to your case?

Not only will this professional have the background to discuss your specific procedure with you and advise you as to whether you have a strong case, but they will be professional on the stand, should it come to that.

Also, verify their credentials to make sure that nothing can damage your credibility in a lawsuit. Their medical license should be active even if they have retired.

Confirm they are up-to-date on all the latest best practices related to your specific procedure.

Do they attend conferences and professional development events? Better still, do they often speak at conferences and participate in or lead their own research? This is an indication they are at the forefront of their specialty and can speak to what should occur in certain situations.

Knowing and committing to adhere to the American Medical Association code of ethics is also very important for an expert witness in this area, particularly if your case involves a code breach. Their knowledge of the code is evidence they are committed to the highest ethical duty in their industry.

Great Communication Skills

For any witness in a lawsuit, it is necessary for them to have excellent communication skills. Someone can be the most decorated academic available, but if they can’t get the situation and their medical opinion across to the jury, you may as well not have anyone on the stand.

Because you’re likely presenting a case that is highly technical and medical, not necessarily consumable to the average person, you need to ensure you have someone speaking for your case who can articulate clearly and demonstrate complex points simply.

A jury consists of everyday folks, not medical professionals who comprehend complicated medical terminology and procedures. Do yourself a huge favor and ensure your witness is a clear and engaging speaker who can share his or her professional opinion in layman’s terms.

Hands-on Experience

Ensuring a surgical medical expert witness has the hands-on knowledge and experience dealing with the specific issue your case focuses on is essential.

Make sure you understand where their current practice is, how long they have been practicing outside of their education, and if possible, what their patients think of them.

They should also be active in medical practice other than just testifying in medical malpractice cases.

As a bonus, if they have experience participating as an expert witness in a lawsuit, this is helpful for you. But they should not have spent most of their practice lifetime testifying for the defense or plaintiffs in various courts because this lessens their practical experience in the field. Ask them for details about their experience and the outcome of the case. If it’s a positive outcome for the side they participated on, that can give you an indication of their strength as a witness. But remember the outcome of the case isn’t necessarily indicative of their success because there are many inputs into whether a case is won or lost.

You can investigate a doctor’s history and ensure you know if their governing body has disciplined them. While it costs $9.95 to run a report, you can find a doctor’s full disciplinary history by contacting the  State Medical Boards.

You can also search doctors’ non-disciplinary history as well through Administrators in Medicine’s DocFinder, but not all states participate.


Finding a surgical medical expert witness is important for all malpractice suits and finding the right one for your specific case can mean the difference between failure and success.

If you have questions or want to speak to us about whether you would benefit from a surgical medical expert witness, please give us a call – we are always happy to help.