The expert opinions of experienced GPs are highly sought after in clinical negligence litigation. In fact, medical expert witnesses are central to the administration of justice.
And for the GP, expert witness cases offer stimulating, well-paid work – which you can complete alongside your clinical practice.
Medico-legal work does require a serious time commitment, often determined by Court timetables. You must have an eye for detail and good oral and written communication skills.
Here are some comments from medical expert witnesses in our community:
"Medico-legal work fits very well within a portfolio career. It adds diversity to your work and improves your clinical practice as you gain a much deeper knowledge of subject matters."
Dr Adrian Rees
"You need some time on the clock and experience before starting. I started in earnest 8 years after starting as a full-time partner, though I had done my first case after 6 years."
GP and expert witness
You need to feel reasonably confident that you could go up against a more established GP in an experts' meeting and hold your own. You must also be prepared to go to Court and you could be cross-examined at length. Is this something you would feel comfortable with?
There is no statutory requirement in terms of clinical experience. But, you'll probably want a few years behind you. You need to be registered with the General Medical Council.
The Academy of Royal Medical Colleges recommends that any medical professional undertaking expert witness work completes dedicated training in this area. Medico-legal training can help you understand your duty to the Court, the legal rules involved in expert witness work and how to present your expert opinions – both in writing and under cross-examination. The best way to develop your medico-legal expertise is by learning from experienced medical experts and lawyers, and engaging in discussion with your peers.
Our two-day Expert Witness Training for Medical Professionals is designed by experienced clinical negligence lawyers and medical expert witnesses. This training brings together new and established experts from a whole range of clinical disciplines. It's a great forum for meeting and sharing experiences with others. You'll learn key skills, talk about tips and pitfalls, and network over refreshments and dinner.
But the training doesn't end there. We provide lots of post-course support and mentoring to help you launch your medico-legal practice. This includes help with your medico-legal CV, advice on running a medico-legal practice, support with your marketing and updates on case law.
Take a look at our Expert Witness Training for Medical Professionals programme page. If you have any queries, please get in contact.
Read on to find out how two medical expert witnesses in our community took very different routes into medico-legal work:
"I discovered being an expert witness in my first year as a medical student! One of my colleagues, who is now a female consultant surgeon, had done a degree in medical law on her journey to medical school.
As a junior medical student I read her amazing dissertation on "Clinical Negligence in Obstetrics" and I was totally blown away. I was sure I had chosen the wrong career and wanted to retrain as a barrister then and there! However, she told me that I should continue as a doctor and develop my career into an expert witness practice as 'then you get the very best of both worlds!!'
It turns out she was absolutely right and it changed my life. So, uniquely, I underwent my entire medical training knowing that this is what I wanted to do, and I started my LLM (Master of Laws) just a month after qualifying as a GP.
I have found it even more rewarding than I could have expected, especially when a case settles in the way you feel it rightfully should, through the power of your own evidence. That and reading a Court judgment in your favour…"
"I developed an interest in medico-legal work during my trainee years in hospitals where I was seeing how complaints and serious incident investigations were handled. I undertook a Masters in Ethics in Law to improve my knowledge and started undertaking medico-legal work once I had been in practice as a GP for 10 years.
I find the work mentally stimulating and challenging. It is interesting working with other professionals outside of medicine and using my knowledge to translate the mystery of medicine to non-medics.
I find that this role has developed my communication, increased my knowledge of medicine and enabled me to better understand the previous mystery that was The Law!"
You can find out more about medical experts in our community via our Medical Expert Witness Directory. Many instructing solicitors use our directory to find experts for clinical negligence litigation. You can join our directory via our Membership Scheme.