Success or failure in a workers’ compensation case often depends upon the testimony of an expert witness. Here are some tips for how to get your expert ready to provide the most persuasive testimony on deposition.
The process really starts with the selection of the expert witness. My preference is always for an expert who regularly practices, as opposed to solely performing independent medical examinations. A good injured worker’s attorney will press the expert on what percentage of their practice is devoted to actually seeing patients. If that number is too low, the doctor will lose credibility. The injured worker’s attorney will also press the doctor on: 1) how many independent medical examinations the doctor performs a week; 2) how much time the doctor spends reviewing the patient before an examination; and 3) how much time they spend on the examination. If the doctor claims that 75% of their practice is devoted to seeing patients and they also perform 4 exams a day, five days a week, and spend two hours reviewing the records and thirty minutes with each person they examine the math is just not going to add up.
Prior to the deposition, be sure to make sure your expert has read the medical records in detail. In order to be effective, the expert must truly understand the facts and issues. Make sure the expert has spent the time to review the medical records thoroughly. Also remind the expert to thoroughly read his or her expert report, which may have been written many months before the deposition.
Make sure your expert understands the issues the other side will bring up and has thought about a response beforehand. Here are some other things for your expert to keep in mind:
- Listen to the question asked.
- Ask for clarification if you do not understand the question.
- Answer only the question that was asked.
- Think before responding. Take your time.
- Leave yourself wiggle room. Don’t allow yourself to get boxed in.
- Ask for breaks when you need them.
- Don’t argue with the other side.
- Read the entire document before answering.
- Do not guess.
Without the proper preparation even the most qualified physician can be thoroughly unpersuasive to the jury. With a little work, however, you can prepare your expert to shine.