How a Judge Evaluates the Credibility of a Medical Expert Witness in a Workers’ Compensation Case
Excerpted from the SEAK’s Course: How to Excel as an Expert Witness in Workers’ Compensation Cases: Special Techniques
– Okay. I know we’ve covered a lot of ground over today. I want the Judge make a few comments, and then I’ll make a final comment.
– Sure. Just to kind of go back to where we started today’s presentation, expert opinions are key. They really are. So kudos to you all to be here and to learn today about how you can make the whatever opinion you’re given, persuasive. Just to kind of sum up from my perspective, when I’m looking at which expert I’m going to accept as the truth, if you will, or the right opinion in that particular case, I’m looking at creditability. We talked at length about creditability. once I get past that, I’m looking at what I would term as foundation. Do you have the expertise in this field to render the opinion that you’re giving, and even more so, do you have the correct medical picture, which includes past medical history. If you’re the treating physician and you’re going to say a condition is work-related, do you know that two months prior, the employee saw the chiropractor complaining of back pain, because if you don’t, that’s going to be problematic from the trier of facts. So make sure you’ve got the complete medical history, the complete picture as far as past treatment, and then know from the employee first-hand, how it is he or she says that they were injured. If it’s a repetitive trauma, make sure you know the exact job duties. And also, highlight those in your report. If you say I know the employee delivered packages for UPS, do I know that you know exactly what that means, not for certain. So make sure you identify those with specificity, what the job duties are, and then like hopefully you’ve heard from me, if there’s no other takeaway, make sure you explain the why. Remember that I’m not medically trained, so just because you say it’s so, is not particularly helpful to me. Explain to me why it is the way that it is. You’re saying, cite articles if that’s appropriate, cite your own expertise and your own experience, and just support your opinion, because remember at some point, you’re going to get asked the how and the why, and those are crucial. Make sure you can defend your opinion. And then, lastly, make sure it’s clear and concise. I am charged with and will read the entirety of the 20 or 30 page report. But if it’s difficult for me to figure out through it, what your actual opinion is or how it is you arrived at that, it’s making my job difficult, and I have pressures too. I have time pressures, I have a lot of cases that I have to deal with. Do the best that you can to make your opinion clear and concise, and not make me have to figure out what it is by reading three paragraphs and putting them together at the end of the day.