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Your Treating Doctor as a Medical Expert Witness

If your Baltimore personal injury car accident claim goes to trial, you will almost certainly need a medical expert witness, i.e. a doctor, chiropractor, or physical therapist, to testify on your behalf about your injuries. It is critical to understand that doctors who treated you for your injuries can testify as either a fact witness, an expert witness, or both. This differs from an Independent Medical Examination (IME) in which the opposing insurance company insists you are examined by an independent doctor, not of your choosing.

Testifying as Fact Witness

If your treating doctor testifies as a fact witness, he or she can discuss your medical treatment as well as the medical records they created for you. Your doctor, on the other hand, will be unable to provide an opinion on what caused the injuries he treated you for or the long-term nature of your injuries. Your treating doctor must adhere to the conversations he had with you during medical treatment as well as the treatment he provided to you, as documented in your doctor’s medical records.

Testifying as Expert Witness

If your treating doctor testifies as an expert witness, he or she will be able to provide expert opinions on issues pertaining to your personal injury claim, such as the cause of your injuries, the extent of your injuries, whether your treatment was reasonably and medically necessary, and the reasonableness of your incurred medical bills.  This differs from an Independent Medical Examination (IME) which is when the opposing insurance company demands you to be examined by an independent doctor that is not of your choosing.

If your doctor wishes to testify as an expert witness, he must testify about the following:

  • your doctor’s qualifications to be an expert witness in your case
  • the materials and information your doctor reviewed and relied on upon forming his or her expert opinions for your case
  • your doctor’s expert opinions, which must be made to a “reasonable degree of medical probability” (i.e. your doctor’s confidence in his opinions must be 51 percent probable, or more likely than not that his opinions are correct)

Testifying as Fact Witness and Expert Witness

Your treating physician may be called upon to testify as both a fact witness and an expert witness.  This is a good thing because there is no one who would know your injuries better than your doctor who actually treated you and knows your medical history. That being said, your treating doctor’s testimony is critical for your personal injury claim because a judge or jury will use your treating doctor’s testimony to determine the extent of your injuries as a result of your accident.

Medical Expert Witness Testimony 

In general, your medical expert witness’s testimony will be divided into three sections, as follows:  qualifications, review of materials, and  expert opinions:

Qualifications

  • Does your doctor have any medical degrees or college degrees?
  • Does your doctor have access to a hospital?
  • How long has the doctor been in clinical practice, and is he or she still in clinical practice?
  • In which specialties does the doctor have clinical experience?
  • Has the doctor ever treated patients with injuries similar to the ones you sustained in the accident?
  • Does the doctor have any publications in his field of specialization?
  • Does the doctor belong to any professional organizations related to his medical specialties?
  • Does the doctor have any board certifications?
  • How many people work in the doctor’s clinical practice?
  • How many patients does the doctor see in his clinical practice each week?
  • Has the doctor ever faced a malpractice suit?
  • Has the doctor’s clinical practice been interrupted in the last five years for any reason?
  •  Your doctor should go over his curriculum vitae (the doctor can explain his residencies, fellowships, and training during and after medical school).
  •  The doctor can explain why he is testifying in your case.
  • The doctor can explain the facts and data he reviewed in reaching his conclusions, as well as how he relied on the facts and data in reaching his conclusions.
  • The doctor can explain the scientific principles and methods he used to form his opinions, as well as how he relied on those principles and methods to reach his conclusions. Furthermore, the doctor can explain whether the scientific principles and methods he used in this case, are common in his field of medicine.

Your personal injury lawyer will request for the Court to certify the doctor as an expert in a medical field (e.g. “Your honor, I tender the witness and request for the Court to certify Dr. Smith as an expert in the field of orthopedic surgery”).

Review of Materials

  • Which of your medical records did the doctor consult before rendering his expert opinion?
  • Which of your medical images did the doctor examine before rendering an expert opinion?
  •  Did your doctor conduct any medical exams on you before or after the accident?
  •  Did the doctor consult with any of your other health care providers about your accident injuries?
  •  How many times did the doctor see you before or after the accident before forming an opinion?
  •  Does the doctor know if you had any medical conditions prior to the accident, and if so, did the doctor review any pre-accident medical records or medical images of you?
  •  Which of your medical bills did the doctor examine before rendering his expert opinion?

Expert Opinions

  • What injuries did you sustain in the accident?
  • What is the extent or permanence of your injuries sustained in the accident?
  • Was the medical treatment you received for your injuries reasonable and medically necessary?
  • Were your medical bills for your injuries fair, reasonable, and customary within the geographic regions for the medical treatment you received?

All expert opinions provided by your doctor must adhere to Maryland’s standard of “reasonable degree of medical probability.” This means that your doctor must be 51 percent certain that his opinions are correct (i.e., the doctor’s opinions are more likely correct than not correct).

Contact a Baltimore Personal Injury Lawyer Today

It is a time-consuming and daunting process to ensure that your doctor can properly express his expert opinions. You need an experienced Baltimore area personal injury lawyer to consult with your doctors and ensure that your medical expert witness is prepared for testimony and the brutal cross-examination. Let the Law Office of John J. Leppler fight for the compensation you deserve.  Call John at (443) 955-1989  for a free consultation.