The Legal Investigator Winter 2011 Vol.35, Issue 4 : Page 3

other. Many doctors will not testify in medical malpractice cases across the board. Some will not testify for a plaintiff. It might be a good thought to get an idea of whether past testimony was on behalf of a plaintiff or defendant. A good place to start looking for a medical expert is to do a literature search to see who has been published on the specific topic of your case. PubMed is the online arm of the National Library of Medicine and has thousands of publications including a wide range of topics. The service is free. PubMed is also a good source to obtain articles written by opposing experts as well. Free full text articles are sometimes available, some offer abstracts only and others just list the citation. However, ordering full text articles is easily done right on the website. Check various medical specialty groups and specialty journals as well. You may opt to check to see if your expert is board certified. This is easily done through the American Board of Medical Specialties. ABMS has a free online database. Google the physician’s name and see what comes up. Check the website of the hospital where the doctor has privileges and see if a biography or a curriculum vitae is available. Obtaining information about medical malpractice history is difficult as the American Medical Association and other organizations have lobbied hard to keep this information away from the public. Unfortunately, the public is not allowed access to the National Practitioner Data Bank, where the majority of this information is stored. Administrators in Medicine has a doctor finder feature that is a free online database which will do a licensing check once you have a name. This allows you to search multiple states at one time. Once you know where the physician has practiced, check the medical boards for those states. Medical Board websites usually provide data regarding disciplinary actions and information regarding license suspensions and revocations. Medical boards rarely include any litigation history. Some states are better than others and the trend is increased transparency. Care and Feeding of Your Expert Here are several tips to optimize the relationship you have with your expert. • Request a copy of the expert’s curriculum vitae, resume and fee schedule in advance. • Avoid requiring any action on short notice. • Offer to pay in advance of services (many experts have been “stiffed” by law firms and are hesitant to commit themselves). Pay promptly once an invoice has arrived. • Do whatever it takes to make their job as easy as possible. Their time is expensive, so whatever time-saving measures you can do in advance for them is appreciated and will trim the hours it takes the expert to arrive at their opinion. This saves money. Examples of this would be including a chronology of the major events of the case, a list of questions you would like answered, and sticky notes on the most pertinent documents. Do NOT write on the documents, as the materials reviewed by the expert in the formulation of their opinion may be discoverable. This caution includes any information in your cover letter as well. • Once you have retained an expert, contact him initially by phone rather than having them generate a written report. In case their opinion is not favorable, once it is in writing, you are stuck with it. Also, in a telephone call you can tell the expert any information you did not want to include in writing. • Be as flexible as possible and work around their schedule. • Ask the expert in advance to tell you if he has any preferences as to how he would like the materials presented. Example: disk versus paper, chronological, alphabetical, etc. • Provide documents in a notebook rather than bound by a rubber band. Winter 2011 Winter 2011 | the legal investigator 5

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