In The Biggest Mistake Attorneys Make When Hiring a Medical Expert, medical malpractice expert witness Dr. Honor Schoech writes:
I was recently hired as a consulting medical expert by a new client. The attorney was representing an elderly woman who was suing a nursing home for negligence. She needed me to review the case quickly for an upcoming deadline.
Before I received the medical records from this attorney, she sent me a summary of the facts. It was thorough and concise, and the medical terminology used was quite advanced. My initial impression was that I was reading a summary from a physician who had already been consulted on the case. I assumed that I was being hired for a second opinion, and that perhaps the original physician was unable to support her views.
When I discussed the case summary further with the attorney, I was surprised to find out that she had written the summary, and that I was the first physician to be consulted. I thoroughly reviewed the medical records, and it became obvious that she had spent a considerable amount of time meticulously reviewing these same records herself.
Here was the problem. After a thorough analysis of the medical records, I did not feel there was medical evidence to support her case. I did have another angle that I thought she could pursue. Unfortunately, there simply wasn’t time. She had a deadline looming in the near future. She had waited until the last minute to seek a medical expert, and the results were not in her favor.
I feel this is the biggest mistake made by attorneys when hiring a medical expert. They simply wait too long to locate, or once located, to engage a medical expert. This simple mistake can cost an attorney enormous amounts of time and money. Had I been consulted on the above case earlier, I would have been able to point out my hesitation with her approach and we could have tried to regroup and pursue a different angle.
Why is it that attorneys tend to wait too long to hire a medical expert? I think attorneys believe they will be able to find a medical expert quickly, but often don’t consider the time it can take to find the “best” expert. This can be a time consuming process, especially when you are not familiar with medical experts in a specific specialty.
I also think that many attorneys feel like they can and should be able to do the work themselves. That it simply isn’t necessary to hire a medical expert. These attorneys have likely been working on medical cases for years, and may feel competent in analyzing the medical records themselves. While this may be true, it isn’t necessary for an attorney to try to take on the role of medical expert. Doing so can result in significant wasted time and possibly misinterpretation of the records.
How early should a lawyer secure a medical expert for his or her case? Ideally, I think this should be done as soon as he or she decides to take the case. But remember that an attorney can secure a medical expert to help him or her decide whether the case has merit, too. If there is any doubt, I advise letting a consulting medical expert take a look at the records to help you decide. You could be working on something else during this time!
Getting an early read on a case can save you a lot of frustration, time and money. As addressed in the case above, your expert might not even feel that you have a case. You really don’t want this to happen after you have spent hours reviewing the records, which ultimately equates to wasted time.
Additionally, a medical expert can help you considerably to identify the issues if you do have a case. An expert medical witness can quickly spot where standards of care have been breached, if tampering has occurred, and how this is important for your case.
As you work through a case, a good medical expert can save you invaluable time. There are many tasks that you could spend countless hours on, which a medical expert will able to do more quickly and efficiently. (For example: literature searches, medical record review and organization, identification of missing records that need to be obtained.) Meanwhile, you could be working on more important things such as practicing law. Imagine that! You might even be able to take on more cases.
Don’t be afraid to secure a medical expert witness early on. Your expert can tell you whether or not you even have a case, and if you do, help you identify the pertinent issues. Start with a consulting expert ,who is cheaper, and then find a testifying expert later, if needed.
You will be shocked to find out how much time you can actually save, and this will allow you to more efficient, take on a higher caseload, and bring in a better income.
Read more: Dr. Honor A. Schoech
MediPro Solutions LLC