Trial or deposition can be a bloodbath.
An Expert Witness with less than stellar credentials is low hanging fruit in cross-deposition or cross-examination. If a Forensic Psychiatrist or Psychologist’s expert opinions are sullied by questionable or inept practices, due diligence cannot be conducted after the fact.
Prepare, defend, sidestep or exploit weaknesses and maximize the strengths of Experts.
Do you know what will be in the cross-hairs?
When you prep a Medico-legal Expert you’ll want to have a handle on any questions you know are going to be raised on examination.
After all, you are probably doing the same for the other counsel’s retained expert.
Let’s dodge some dangerous waters.
- Sloppy reporting
- Misrepresentation of credentials
- arketing strategies that don’t pass the smell test.
- Trial is a bad time to learn your expert lost a malpractice suit
Due diligence is overlooked more often than you’d think. It should include researching
- Board sanctions
- License suspensions
- Medical Malpractice suits
- A questionable medical school and other CV points
- Claims in a report the expert is not qualified to address
- The impression of bias, e.g. operating on a panel in a defense-weighted insurance IME mill.
Online verification of credentials is available if you know where to look (e.g. the ABPN Verify-Cert. addresses Board-Certification, suspensions of same, lapses in good standing.)
Medical malpractice suits and Medical Board Investigations are, in limited reliability, found online (Healthgrades.com, Lexis Nexis.)
CVs hold a wealth of knowledge, but research is essential. One doctor held a degree from an impressive sounding school. It even sounded like another excellent school. It was, however, not a good school, not in the US and thus not accredited by US Accreditation Boards and so on
A close look at the report, by someone qualified to look for weaknesses/strengths can be helpful.
Affiliation with a plaintiff or defense-weighted panel service is difficult to research. Sometimes called IME Mills (by me), these services sign up forensic experts to provide evaluations in bulk. The panels are not made public and there are hundreds of such businesses. However, questions can be posed in deposition or trial. Objections sustained as it speaks to reliability of testimony.
Damage Control, the Motion in Limine
Having to file a last-minute Motion in Limine about your expert will take a hit to your trial budget.
Alternatively, opposing counsel’s failure to file a Motion in Limine about their own expert might be a boon to your case, if you know it would have been your smart move, that they missed.
Vulnerability, defense is the best offense.
When I review and research the reports, practices and professional behavior of a forensic psychiatrist or psychologist-or help select such a professional, I watch for vulnerability to challenges and opinions diminished. Attorneys tell me there’s no substitute for the impartial eagle eye for inconsistencies and missteps. I concur. But get someone who knows the industry.
Don’t ignore the expert’s back office: especially billing staff.
Staff of an attorney can make mistakes and so can staff of an Expert Witness. Claims against the Expert of dodgy billing or overcharging–even the impression of such requires a little pre-trial planning.
A Forensic Psychiatrist I know had a very large bill. He had more than 20 binders of records to read (4″ binders!). He knew a jury would gasp at his bill and assume he was greedy and his opinion was driven by profit. What did he do? He brought the boxes and boxes of binders into the Courtroom. They sat under a table and served as a subtle but effective visual aide.
Retaining the right expert.
I consult with attorneys to avoid common mistakes, e.g., plaintiff’s counsel retaining plaintiff’s therapist as an Expert Witness; pursuing a psychologist to opine about medication they are unqualified to prescribe. I help find appropriately qualified Experts and make recommendations.
30 years in the trenches in law and forensic psychiatry*. Hard-earned experience is applied to my expertise about the use of an expert witness to effective trial strategy when faced with the forensic opinion of a psychiatrist or psychologist.
*I am neither a lawyer nor doctor. I am intimately familiar with the practice of law as a project manager and case-team member as a paralegal.