Talk with an attorney for a few minutes on any given day and one of the first questions they ask is, “Do you locate expert witnesses?” or “Are you willing to be an expert witness?” This is another service you can provide to attorneys in your career as a legal nurse consultant (LNC), so market this when you advertise in print or find yourself in face-to-face networking opportunities.
Just last week I was asked to help locate a correctional nurse for a case that involved a possible failure to medically treat an inmate after an injury sustained in the prison.
Whenever I take on this work, I begin by discussing with the attorney the case theme and what kind of experts will be needed. The attorney may want nurse or doctor experts, or both. Ask how far out of state your search should be (a tri-state area is not unusual), so you can work accordingly. To save time and money start with the closest state in proximity to where the case is being tried in court, and work your way out. Remember that sometimes the best-qualified expert witness candidate could be many states away.
Another great resource for finding expert witness candidates is your national and chapter legal nursing associations. If you’re not already a member of such an organization, you should become one, because you will gain access to thousands of other legal nurses from all over the country. Typically, you can locate an expert by specialty and state to narrow your search.
Also look for nursing associations by specialty, as these organizations will often have a member listing available. For example, if you are looking for an operating room nurse, the Association of Perioperative Nurses is a nationally recognized nursing organization with members practicing in this field. Additionally, SEAK, Inc. is an excellent resource that can help you locate physician experts across the country in any specialty.
After you have compiled a list of candidates, you want to personally contact each of them via telephone to ask the following questions:
- Are you currently working in this field?
- Have you ever done a case screening/review?
- Have you ever used this area of expertise to testify in a court of law before, or would you be willing to testify?
Make sure you ask each candidate to email or fax a copy of his or her Curriculum Vitae for review. First impressions on the phone are important and you can get a pretty good idea when asking these open-ended questions the degree of experience and professionalism the potential candidate possesses. If you don’t have a good feeling about spoke with on the phone, even though their resume looked good, keep looking. Also, keep a list of these candidates for future reference.
You will want find at least three, but as many as five potential expert witnesses for the attorneys to vet. They will ultimately choose who is right for the case, and contact the witness directly. Happy expert witness-seeking!