Tips On Evaluating a Potential Surgical Witness For a Medical Malpractice Case

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Surgeons come in all shapes and sizes, from the most general to the most specialized. Mednick Associates, a nationwide provider of medical expert witness services offers items to consider when evaluating a surgical expert for your case review or expert witness testimony.

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While surgeons have experience with many different medical procedures, having a medical expert who has not performed the surgery involved in the case for over 10 years is not ideal.

In most instances, state laws determine the required criteria or attributes necessary for an approved medical expert witness. However, the state mandated minimums may not be enough to serve you well in a case review or, more importantly, in the courtroom. Developing a secondary set of characteristics will help any trial attorney evaluate which expert option ends up rising to the top. Below are a few tools, specific to surgical experts that may assist in your decision.

1)    Your Options: When searching for a surgeon, an attorney is confronted with many options. Some surgeons are considered “general” while others perform only those procedures specific to a surgical sub-specialty. A general surgeon may have a wide array of practice areas, but their training does not lend itself to specific procedures like heart or brain surgery. Many times a general surgeon may be less expensive to retain for your case, but deciding to work with a specialty surgeon may enhance the medical opinion for the jury.

2)    Board Certification vs. On-the-job training: Many general surgeons are also dual boarded in a sub-surgical specialty, like vascular or cardiothoracic surgery, to name a few. However, some surgeons exclusively practice in a sub-surgical specialty without the board certification. They simply have accrued years of hands on training without being required to attain a board certification. Litigators have to decide whether or not the board certification is important or the years of experience is a proper compensatory feature. Another item to consider is that as medicine becomes more and more specialized, new board certifications arise which were not available even a few years ago. This may cause a perfectly qualified surgeon to be overlooked as an expert if an attorney is solely focused on the board certification of the expert in question.

3)    Experience with specific surgeries: Before working with any surgeon, a litigator should always ask what surgeries the potential expert is currently performing. While surgeons have experience with many different medical procedures, having a medical expert who has not performed the surgery involved in the case for over 10 years is not ideal. Surgeons tend to focus their practice over time and making sure they are actively performing the surgery in question on a daily or weekly basis can only increase the credibility quotient.

4)    Surgical Setting: With the evolution of outpatient surgery centers, less and less procedures are performed in a hospital setting. More than ever it is important to know where the potential expert performs the bulk of their surgeries and to match up the case with the location. Hospitals may have different protocols or procedures than offsite centers, which may have major consequences to how an expert reviews a case in terms of the administration of the patient or the follow on care.

Mednick Associates, a 20-year veteran of the expert witness industry, has an extensive network of over 2,500 highly trained and top tier medical experts in all specialties. They routinely work with both the plaintiff and defense litigators by recommending and managing the medical expert selection process. All experts are thoroughly screened by a team of legal nurse consultants who also assist with upfront cases analysis and medical chronology services. Please call 203.966.3000 for more information or visit them at http://www.mednickassociates.com.

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Diane Manders
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