Medical Expert Witness: Dos and Don’ts

During your career as a physician, you may be asked to testify in a proceeding before a court, a regulatory authority (College), or another form of administrative tribunal as a treating physician, independent medical evaluator, or expert.

We’ve compiled a list of do’s and don’ts when testifying as a treating physician, independent medical evaluator, or expert witness:

  • Do: Review your reports.
    This is self explanatory. Familiarize yourself with your reports that you have prepared, whether completed recently or years before you testify.
  • Don’t: Come unprepared.
    Make sure to review any relevant literature that is cited in your report or in the reports of other experts.
  • Do: Be aware of court etiquette.
    Always arrive before the assigned time to allow yourself to get situated and make sure you are dressed in business attire.
  • Don’t: Speak when an exchange takes place between counsel and the court.
    You should remain quiet when an objection or motion is made, until the judge, arbitrator, or board member overrules, sustains the objection, or allows or denies the motion. Only once that determination has been made, will you then be directed to speak and continue.
  • Do: Remain objective, calm, and polite.
    Do not let the tone or the nature of the question allow you to become unnecessarily defensive or influence the manner in your response. Approach the disagreement in a calm and professional manner by briefly explaining why you disagree.
  • Don’t: Hesitate to ask for a question to be repeated or rephrased.
    Do not attempt to answer a question that you do not understand. Communicate any confusion or misunderstanding clearly and take the necessary time to reflect before answering.
  • Do: Speak clearly, slowly, and loudly enough.
    Make sure that all parties can hear you. Be clear by referring to records or diagrams and using plain language to avoid overly complex medical jargon.
  • Don’t: Exaggerate and embellish.
    Make sure you are not discussing matters beyond the parameters of the question you have been asked. Answer the questions honestly and completely, yet concisely.

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Disability Insurance for Physicians
Medical Liability Protection for Physicians