Certification Matters, a website operated by the not-for-profit American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), will tell you if a specific doctor is board certified. The site also contains other information that might be helpful in researching medical experts involved in litigation (or to find out more about doctors for personal medical care). Free registration required.
A tip from Michael J. Wagner: When selecting an expert, don't automatically choose the expert with the lowest rate.
It there is a substantial reason for the higher rate, then the more expensive expert may be more efficient. Many experienced experts have higher rates because they have done the work before and can now do it faster . . . The result of somewhat higher rates and much greater efficiency may be a lower bill.
Source: "Expert problems," by Michael J. Wagner, The Litigation Manual: Pretrial (ABA Litigation).
[A]ssuming you have a very serious injury car or truck accident case and you need an expert, get the experts on board early. How do you know you need one? Do you have a problem with speed, with drinking, with highway design, with a “dangerous condition?” Well, you won’t know if you have any of those things if you don’t investigate your claims properly.
There's lots more advice in the full post--be sure to check it out.
Looking for an expert witness? Start by looking at nearby universities. In his book, The View from the First Chair, Martin L. Grayson shares this anecdote--
The last time I needed a toxicologist on a case I was handling, I called the Department of Chemistry at UCLA, the biggest university campus in my area. I spoke to a professor there, and after describing the issue, he didn't hesitate to refer me to a colleague across town at USC whose research focused on the exact chemicals in the exposure case I was defending.
It's good advice. Most professors are skilled at explaining difficult subjects to laypersons, which is exactly what you want in an expert witness. If you take the alternative route of relying on one of those ubiquitous expert mills, you run the risk of hiring an expert who can be easily branded by your opponent as being nothing but a hired gun.
Don't save your review of an expert's CV for the night before the deposition. Read it well in advance of the deposition, then mark it up and investigate the expert's claims.
Has the expert exaggerated his qualifications? Such exaggerations can seriously undermine his credibility. Has the expert included items on his CV that are simply wrong? It happens. Even typographical errors indicate a level of sloppiness on the expert's part.
Here are some things to look for--
What does the CV say about the expert's areas of expertise? How does this overlap with what the expert is going to testify about in your case? Sometimes there is a large gap between what the expert actually does at work and what he or she plans to testify about at trial.
What are your expert's particular areas of research interest? Again, there is often a large gap between what the expert spending time researching in real life, and what he or she has been hired to testify about in your case.
Does the CV contain puffery? Are there claimed memberships that have expired? Are there claimed licenses that have lapsed? Were the majority of the expert's honors and award granted years ago? All of these things are fair areas of inquiry at the deposition.
What is omitted from the expert's CV? Always check news databases and published opinions to find out more about the expert's professional life and activities.
To whom is the expert beholden? If the expert is working or consulting for industries that hold views contrary to the one you are presenting in your case, this is something you'll want to explore further at the deposition. If the expert's CV lists grants, find out who sponsored those grants.
Too often an expert's CV is all but ignored at depositions, when it is almost always fertile ground for questioning. Just remember to prepare yourself for these questions in advance (and to review your own expert's CV before presenting it to the other side).
At the James Publishing weblog, Dorothy Clay Sims has a book excerpt titled "Checklist for Researching Defense Doctors," which includes a number of tips that will work for researching doctors hired by either side in a case.
Although the book I am recommending today was written primarily as a law-school text, Trial Advocacy: Planning, Analysis, and Strategy is also an excellent resource for practitioners, especially younger lawyers working on their first trials.
Described as a "how-to book for trial lawyers," Trial Advocacy is full of practical information about all the areas of trial you'd expect: jury selection, opening, exhibits, direct, cross, experts, instructions, closing. The book also includes a DVD in which "experienced trial counsel present" a mock trial based on the materials in the book.
Here's a sample tip from the book, chosen pretty much at random from a chapter titled "Cross-Examination of Experts"--
The expert's opinion may be vulnerable in the following areas:
The time the expert had or used in analyzing the data (the doctor examined the patient for ten minutes; psychiatrist did not examine criminal defendant until ten weeks after the crime);
Information was incomplete (the engineer did not receive all the blueprints);
Expert is making an incorrect assumption about the data (the expert assumes that the core soil sample he was given was from "quadrant 4";you will present evidence that the sample was from "quadrant 3," which invalidates the expert's calculation);
Expert received faulty or biased data (much of the data is from an interested party);
Expert's procedures or experiments for analyzing the data faulty, unreliable, left undone, or wrong (a mtallurgist failed to heat the metal to the appropriate temperature).
At almost 600 pages, it's a hefty book. You'll find a trailer for the DVD, sample documents, and ordering information at the book's companion website. You can also find the book at Amazon.
Some lawyers routinely ask this question at expert depositions--
Q. "What is your understanding of your role in this litigation?"
The question touches on a number of topics you will cover later in the deposition: the manner in which the expert came to be hired, what the expert was asked to do, the expert's working methods, and the expert's opinions.
Because the question can be answered in so many different ways, it functions as a sort of Rorschach test that will give you insight into an expert's manner of answering questions. Ask the question to ten different experts and you'll get ten different answers.
Usually you'll learn something useful.
If experts are improperly prepared, they might ramble on about their relationship with the lawyer who hired them; you might learn something your opposing lawyer didn't intend the expert to reveal. If experts are inexperienced, the question might make them uncomfortable; you'll learn how the expert handles stress.
Even if the expert answers the question without slipping up, you'll get some insight into how the expert thinks his opinions will be contributing to the case. Listen carefully to how the witness answers and then follow up appropriately. You'll also have plenty of opportunities later in the deposition to follow up on the myriad of sub-topics the question raises.