How To Find A Medical Expert: Pearls and Pitfalls

Attorneys are surprisingly creative at finding their expert witnesses. From trusted sources to personal friends to the physician who performed their last colonoscopy, no “expert” seems out of bounds. Given the critical influence that your expert will have upon your case, a well-chosen expert will save the day while a haphazardly selected expert may be a disastrous and expensive misstep. Despite the vast resources available today, many still ask, “How do I find a medical expert?” When it comes to choosing a medical expert witness, understanding these Pearls and Pitfalls of your options is critical to your success.

The Internet

The internet is ripe with an unfiltered and unlimited list of physicians “ready to testify” in your next case. Although there may be some excellent candidates within the mix, too many internet experts are “hired guns” with spotty credentials and questionable clinical experience. Even if you interview a multitude of candidates and happen to stumble upon a reasonable choice, he or she is still an advertised “expert” whose internet presence will no doubt be an endless source of fascination for opposing counsel.   The bottom line is that random internet searches are typically too broad, unstructured, and risky to yield meaningful and cost-effective results.

Friends & Family

Although Friends & Family may work for your cellular calling plan, it is the worst of all strategies for securing a medical expert witness. Beyond the obvious conflict of interest, informal referrals lack the experience and objectivity that any rational approach demands. Litigation is too costly and complex to rely upon an informal referral. Skip friends and move on to other more credible resources.

Prior Experts

When you have a good relationship with an expert, it is certainly reasonable to reach out to him or her when another suitable case arises. The key to this strategy is to assure that the expert is really the best expert in terms of expertise, credentials, and availability. It is equally important to assure that the expert is not seen as an asset of your firm in terms of an ongoing relationship. This may be accomplished by limiting the number of cases referred to the expert and also by documenting a history confirming that the expert is not always in lockstep with your theories.

Colleague Referrals

A tried and true expert can be an outstanding resource, and reaching out to colleagues may be a good way to find one. Although the pool is quite limited, if you can match Board Certification, expertise, and current clinical practice, then you may have a an effective resource at your disposal.

Referral Services and Bureaus

Utilizing the help of professionals is often a good way to find experts, but like the internet, the realm of referral services and expert bureaus is fraught with potential risks. Rather than utilizing services that work with a laundry list of preselected experts, look for an experienced and reputable consulting firm that takes the time to learn about your case before conducting an independent search for an ideal expert witness. Since the expert is hand-vetted for your specific case, the expert has no ongoing relationship with the firm. Such firms are often run by experienced physicians with extensive legal experience whose loyalty is to your case rather than to a predetermined subscribing “expert”. Top tier firms only utilize Board Certified experts with spotless credentials, the majority of whom are on the faculty of major university medical centers. These firms understand discovery, respect transparency, and never advertise the name of any expert.

Regardless of the path you take, a remarkable expert capable of advancing the case theory will be the cornerstone of your success.  If you need additional assistance, have questions, or need start-to-finish litigation support for your next case, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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