You’ve probably heard the term “expert witness” before. But what is one? How is such a person used in court? And do they ever cause problems in court?
What is an expert witness?
An expert witness is somebody who has expertise in a field relevant to the legal proceedings. For example, an orthopedic surgeon is an expert on broken bones. If that surgeon agrees to testify in a court proceeding, he or she is an expert witness.
In this industry we use expert witnesses all the time. In fact it is rare to have a case go by where we don’t have to call on the expertise of a professional to testify for our clients. Most expert witnesses charge a fee for their services. We gladly pay for this expense, even flying experts in from across the country, because we know that the strength of their testimony can help prove our client’s case.
Insurance companies use expert witnesses as well. In fact, if you’ve been hurt and are fighting for compensation in the court, the insurance company will almost certainly send their own medical professional to examine you.
Are expert witnesses ever wrong?
Here’s where things get interesting. Consider this: If a doctor gives an insurance company an opinion that they like to hear, or that helps their case, they’ll be happy and naturally want to use him again, right? And the doctor knows that the more often he is called upon as an expert witness, the more money he makes, right?
So what’s to prevent the expert from simply always saying what the insurance company wants to hear, and testifying of it in court?
When an insurance company finds an expert they like, they stick with him. For example, New York orthopedist Dr. Robert Israel performed 1500 examinations a year for insurance companies, (that’s up to 30 a day!) and brought in bucketloads of cash doing it. The problem? Apparently, he wasn’t even “doing” the exams. According to reports, he would show up, do a super short examination or a half-way job, and then say whatever the insurance company wanted to hear. He’s now barred from being an expert witness for 3 years.
Another example is Dr. Michael Katz, a career expert witness who made over a million dollars in a year as an “expert witness” for insurance companies, but who, according to the New York Personal Injury Law Blog, “had testified in the recent case that he likely spent 10-20 minutes on his examination of the plaintiff. A surreptitiously made video, however, revealed that he spent a mere one minute and 56 seconds on the exam and could not have made all the findings he testified about within that short time.”
The judge on that trial was furious, and repeatedly called him a liar.
The insurance companies take the word of these so-called “experts” and use them as an excuse to deny claims, or offer lower settlement amounts. Again, the New York Personal Injury Law Blog speculates that these two doctors alone may be responsible for hundreds of millions in denied claims for injured people.
Reports of quickie exams, deceptive insurance company “experts,” and repeated perjury are sadly not uncommon. The conflict of interest for the insurance company paid expert witness is clear, and there are too many people willing to sell their morals for money.
How can you protect your case?
This type of underhanded legal trickery engaged in by the insurance companies is why experience in the legal world is so important. Your attorney has to know how to fight back against bad expert witnesses, and find the reliable ones for your case. Your attorney has to know what to expect in the courtroom and be prepared to stand up to insurance companies that pay big bucks just to win their case. Your attorney needs the financial resources to go toe-to-toe with the big corporations.
Talk to our attorneys today about your situation. We’ll talk about your options. If we take your case, we’ll cover the expense of experts and everything else that comes along with it until you win.