And the good news is that this method works even if you do not have specific medical experience.
Step 1: Look at the whole case’s medical facts — not just the damages.
Many attorneys are so focused on their client’s symptoms, that they don’t even realize that they need to accomplish this step before they can select the proper medical specialist. And that’s why many litigators end up choosing experts that are not effective– they’re simply missing this crucial step.
So, the first thing you need to do is look at the entirety of the medical facts– from start to finish.
You’ll find that this part of the process goes much more smoothly if you apply these tips and tricks:
- Make sure that the medical records are organized in chronological order so that you can easily be accessed by you and your expert.
- Quickly summarize the records. There are services that can do this (including paralegals, RNs or foreign physicians) but you can do it yourself if you stay organized.
- Pay special attention to the mechanism of injury in addition to the ongoing symptoms. Make sure you have flagged in the records where these are mentioned.
Once you’ve done this comprehensive medical records review/summary, then you can move on to the next step…
Step 2: Look again at the mechanism of injury and the ongoing symptoms to determine the type of specialist you need.
As someone who helps attorneys select their medical experts, I have seen people make certain mistakes time and time again. So let me share with you the top 3 errors and how to avoid them:
- Mistake # 1: Assuming that because your client has numbness or weakness, that a neurologist is the right medical expert. 9/10 times a neurologist may NOT be the most qualified specialist to help you with your case. What was the cause of the numbness/weakness? Was the numbness caused by a motor vehicle collision? In that case, a pain specialist (usually an anesthesiologist with special training) or a physiatrist (Physical Medicine and Rehab residency trained physician) who routinely treats patients who have pain after similar accidents might be a better choice than a sub-specialized neurologist. Was surgery needed? Then an orthopedic spine surgeon or neurosurgeon would likely be the right expert to call.
- Mistake #2: Not understanding the difference between physicians and non-physician providers. Make sure that you understand the training of your potential expert. They may be “Dr. So and So” but still did not attend medical school. While a PhD expert may be up-to-date on the latest research, unless they have an MD or DO, they did not go to medical school and can not speak with the same clinical experience as a physician. An advanced practice provider (nurse practitioner or physician assistant) may have a doctorate degree in nursing, but did not attend medical school– while this can be helpful for certain types of cases, it is important to understand the difference so that you are not surprised. Ask for their CV before you retain them and pay special attention to their degrees and advanced training.
- Mistake #3: Waiting until the last minute to choose a medical expert. You want to start your search for the right expert early on. If you wait until after discovery has been completed, there is no chance for the expert to help in depositions or help you gain important information that might otherwise be missed. Also, sometimes there is a renowned expert in the field who has the right experience for the case, and by starting early, your side can retain this expert.
Step 3: Use multiple sources when determining which experts you want to consider.
At this step, you know what type of medical expert you are looking for, so you need to come up with a list of candidates.
- Contact colleagues to see if they have recommendations (but be sure to ask them specifically about their strengths and weaknesses.)
- Check out academic hospital websites “find a doctor” links for listings of specialists in the fields you are seeking. Physicians who are experienced and highly rated teachers will likely be able to educate jurors.
- Look at Medical Expert Search websites since their physicians are particularly interested in medical expert work. But be sure to double-check their credentials since many are paying to be listed on the sites.
Step 4: Now it’s time to review your potential experts. Make sure to vet them completely.
In addition to their fee schedule, request their updated CV. Do a thorough Internet search for any concerning social media posts or other red flags that opposing counsel might find. At this step, you’re likely to notice a few experts seem to rise to the top of the list. You should meet with them in person, or at a minimum, talk to them on the phone, so you can analyze how they would present themselves to the jury.
I still remember the time when I looked at a potential expert’s Facebook profile and saw their off-color posts– that is not someone who I would feel comfortable for my physician, and would certainly be an easy target for opposing counsel.
- Ensure that there are no conflicts of interest.
- Using Google Chrome Extension such as ManyContacts to find the Social Media Accounts associated with any person using their email address is useful. Install the ManyContacts Extension here.
- Review any relevant publications by your potential expert on your topic, including any position that discredits the position needed on your case.
- Review previous deposition and/or trial testimony.
- Meet the potential expert, in person, if possible. It is important to know how they carry themselves, and how you feel they may come across to the jury. Even if they have pristine credentials, they may not seem likable, and you can only get that sense from meeting them face-to-face.
- Talk to other attorneys who have retained the expert in the past.
And there you have it – a simple 4-step method for choosing the perfect medical expert.
Disclaimer: Content is for educational and informational purposes only.