You are interested in writing a polished expert witness report. You know an expert witness’s report is one of the most critical documents in a medical malpractice suit. In states that require them, the report lays out the opinions of the expert witness. Once the report is written it becomes difficult if not impossible for the expert to modify those opinions, except on the basis of new information.
Polishing your expert witness report
I wrote expert witness reports for 20 years when I served as a medical surgical expert witness. These are my suggestions for polishing your expert witness report.
- Pay attention to the formatting. Use one consistent font; use headers to divide up the material.
- Explain abbreviations and medical terms. Write your report to a layperson.
- Use short, clear sentences and the active voice. Describe the events in the past tense such as “The patient reached the floor at 1 p.m.” instead of “The patient reaches the floor at 1 p.m.”
- Make the paragraphs smoothly transition from one to the other, break up text into reasonable length paragraphs. Be judicious with your use of bold and italics and underlining.
- Be measured and conservative. There are some experts who personally attack the opposing expert on the other side. That’s dangerous and shows you’ve lost your objectivity. Some people find that very objectionable. You are not a strong, passionate advocate but an objective conveyor of a set of opinions regarding what has transpired.
- Anticipate or refute the opposing expert’s position.
- Clearly define your opinions and then back them up to citations to standards or literature if you are sure there’s nothing in that citation that’s going to be used to contradict what the expert has said.
- Write the expert witness report only when the attorney asks for it. There might be more discovery coming. There might be depositions that are going to be undertaken, so it could be premature to write a report right in the beginning of the case.
- Write a well organized expert witness report that flows well and is neat.
Your expert report represents your professionalism
Many people are going to read your report: attorneys, judge, mediator, risk manager, claims adjuster, other experts – make sure it represents you well.
Learn more about polishing your expert report at 10 Tips for Presenting Facts and Opinions.
Pat Iyer MSN RN LNCC is president of The Pat Iyer Group. In her role as president of Med League, she read thousands of reports. This material is abstracted from How to be a Successful Expert Witness, one of Pat’s valuable resources for LNCs. Get information about the book at this link.