"Lights, Camera, Action": Presenting the Medical Expert in Trial

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American Journal of Trial Advocacy


The legal system has long recognized the use of expert testimony. Attorneys for both plaintiffs and defendants frequently present testimony from an expert to make crucial points on behalf of their client. Experts run the gamut of knowledge. They may represent training and highly technical backgrounds. They may represent a wealth of knowledge garnered simply by a lifetime of involvement in their fields of expertise. They usually represent both. When considering the use of the medical expert, since both the academic and practical bodies of knowledge are of considerable importance, an understanding of the individual with whom you are dealing as well as the background, training, credentials and practical hands-on experience of the expert will constitute the foundation from which to build on the expert's testimony. An attorney's encompassing knowledge of the medical expert is no less important than knowledge of the fact pattern, case law, and an understanding of the precedents considered vital in the preparation of his client's case. The more an attorney knows about the medical expert and from the medical expert, the better able the attorney will be to drive home the value of the expert's testimony. Wondrous shades of gray exist in the diagnostic and therapeutic process in the practice of medicine, unlike in the practice of law with an establishment of only black or white in a verdict and its incorporation of compensatory and punitive awards. The lawyer must have the ability to work with the medical expert not only to put forth what should be said, but also to bring out what must be said in a persuasive manner so that all who hear it will be drawn to decide in favor of the client. This Commentary examines the manner and method to most effectively utilize the medical expert in trial.

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Publication Date

Fall 1993