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What is an expert witness?

A medical expert witness is a healthcare professional who provides an impartial medical opinion to the court on the facts in clinical negligence and personal injury cases.

Expert witnesses are indispensable to the legal process when it comes to helping the court understand the medical and clinical evidence. As an expert, your evidence will be crucial in determining the outcome of a case.

What the work involves

Expert witnesses are involved in a range of tasks, including:

  • Reviewing records, witness statements and other documents
  • Assessing the client (claimant or defendant)
  • Putting together a report with a well-reasoned opinion, supported by well-researched evidence
  • Attending meetings with solicitors/barristers
  • Discussions with the opposing expert to consider the issues and identify the key differences of opinion
  • Giving evidence in court (although most cases are settled before this point).
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The skills you’ll need as an expert witness

Lawyers look for a wide range of skills and attributes in a medical expert witness, including:

  • In-depth and up-to-date knowledge of their specialist field
  • Impartiality and honesty
  • Good communication and written skills
  • Attention to detail
  • A confident, but not arrogant, manner
  • Responsiveness
  • Flexibility and the time to complete the work.
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Our expert witness framework

We’ve put together an aide memoire detailing the key points you need to bear in mind when you’re completing medical expert witness work.

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Doctors, nurses, midwives, physiotherapists and many allied healthcare professionals take on work as medical expert witnesses.

Healthcare professionals who act as expert witnesses are expected to undertake specific training and continuing professional development (CPD) in this area, as outlined in the latest guidance from the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges.

Formal expert witness accreditation is also increasingly recognised within the industry and Inspire MediLaw offers a dedicated scheme.

Do I need a legal qualification?

Contrary to popular myth, you don’t need a legal qualification to take on expert witness work. However, you will need a good working knowledge of how to address the legal tests (the Civil Procedure Rules and Practice Direction 35). On our two-day expert witness training programme, we cover all the legal rules you’ll need to know and how to apply these rules to clinical negligence and personal injury cases.

How to find medico-legal work

There are many ways to find work as a medical expert witness:

  • Join an online expert witness directory, such as Inspire MediLaw’s directory.
  • Sign up with good, reputable medical reporting agencies.
  • Approach clinical negligence and personal injury solicitors direct via email.
  • Promote your services on Twitter and LinkedIn and on your own website.
  • Write articles for professional journals and newsletters.
  • Give presentations and talks to law firms with clinical negligence departments.
  • Join your local medico-legal society.
  • Attend legal events and networking, such as the AVMA and APIL conferences.

Want to find out more?

Get our free guide with top tips on how to get started as a medical expert witness. This guide is packed with useful advice and information from healthcare and legal professionals who’ve worked in the industry for many years.

How to start, build and run a successful medico-legal practice

We also run a one-day programme, ‘How to start, build and run your medico-legal practice’. This course is designed to equip you with practical knowledge to get your business off the ground.

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