Today we have a pop quiz to help sharpen your thinking around selecting expert witnesses. Imagine you are a litigator preparing for trial. The best expert for our medical malpractice case should possess which of the following:
(a) An impressive CV/resume, replete with publications and experience at top-notch institutions, because the more “academic” the expert, the better;
(b) An ability to explain complicated medical terms using everyday analogies, because juries can envision aortic dissection as compared to a burst garden hose, for example, or picture the size of a 3.5 cm cancer lesion as compared to a grape;
(c) A stylish suit and matching shoes, because if experts look good, juries will find them more credible.
If you chose Answer B above, you’re thinking like we do. Academic physicians — even well credentialed, well dressed ones — can be boring and unpersuasive if they aren’t skillful in connecting with the jury and making their meaning clear.
Yes, an impressive CV and commanding appearance can be important. But in our experience, the most effective expert witness is the one who can help sell your defense theme by comfortably drawing upon analogies and giving the jury real-life examples. After all, what juror really knows how big 3.5 centimeters is, anyway?