Getting credible testimony from treating doctors can make or break your case. In this episode, Michael and Malorie are sharing their strategies to get powerful testimony from treating doctors, work through common challenges, and help build your case.
While the personal knowledge of the treating physician establishes significantly more credibility than a hired expert, it’s imperative the doctor communicates well and speaks in a way the jury can understand — without all of the medical jargon.
Remember: treating doctors aren’t professional testifiers. The lawyer needs to ensure that the treating doctor is prepared to give efficient, compelling testimony. You’re the guide who’s questions will lead the doctor along the trail of your strategy, and avoid getting stuck in the weeds of mundane details.
Malorie’s strategies to guide the story include magic words and visuals. Magic words or questions ensure you get what you need from the witness and end up with valuable testimony. Visuals (like diagrams, animations, or demonstrations) can help the jury visualize the story — as long as your visuals are relevant to your trial strategy. To wrap everything up, Malorie suggests you leave the jury with the major takeaway from your witness…just make sure it connects to the next part of your case.
Tune in to episode 115 as Michael and Malorie discuss strategies and best practices for working with treating doctors, the do’s and don’ts of getting valuable testimony, preparing the witness, and utilizing their testimony to build a compelling story for the jury.
Name: Malorie J. Peacock
About: Malorie J. Peacock is a Partner at Cowen Rodriguez Peacock. She was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas and received her J.D. from the University of Houston Law Center. During her time with Cowen Rodriguez Peacock, Malorie has worked on numerous commercial vehicle, trucking, and wrongful death cases. Malorie brings close attention to detail, commitment to finding safety issues and areas of neglect, continued utilization of technology and cutting-edge visuals in cases, along with a sincere passion to help those who have been hurt, to each and every case.
Company: Cowen Rodriguez Peacock
Top takeaways from this episode
- Testimony from treating doctors can be crucial for a win. A treating doctor can testify from a place of personal knowledge, showing the jury what happened from a medical perspective. They have more credibility than someone you might hire, and because of their longer history with the client, they’re harder to cross-examine.
- Bringing in treating doctors has its share of challenges. Although treating doctors can be critical for a case, there are often challenges when bringing them in to testify. Doctors speak their own language; they often use medical jargon that the average person won’t understand. So, if you want to work through these challenges, you need to make sure your treating doctor is using colloquial language and is a great communicator.
- You should think about your case from a storytelling perspective. It can be easy for a treating doctor to get into every detail of the medical procedure, condition, or patient visit. As a lawyer, you want to guide the treating doctor and make sure they stay on track, only sharing details that are relevant to your case strategy. Be careful not to be leading or argumentative, but build your story with key components and questions that make the testimony understandable.
[01:59] Events for attorneys: Michael Cowen talks about upcoming events for lawyers put on by top organizations including the Academy of Truck Accident Attorneys and Trial Lawyers University.
[03:07] Getting testimony from treating doctors: Apart from making sure you have a clear appellate record, your doctor’s testimony is a critical component of the story you’re telling to the jury. However, there are some challenges with getting treating doctors to give coherent, clear testimony.
[09:19] Should witnesses be live or on video? Malorie Peacock explains the benefits of having a live witness compared to someone on video. She also shares why a live witness can be a bigger risk.
[10:59] Compelling treating doctor direct examinations: Malorie talks about how lawyers can introduce witnesses in an efficient way — and why it’s important to build trust with the doctors so their testimonial is straight to the point.
[16:12] Dealing with questioning: Malorie and Michael discuss how to deal with accusatory questions that frame the witness as being in some sort of collusion with the lawyer.
[19:38] Magic words and questions: You don’t have to use magic words or phrases in trial, however, Malorie shares how they could help you and why it never hurts to use them.
[24:37] Showing a doctor’s work without going overboard: You want to prove a doctor’s credibility and show their work. But you don’t want to go overboard and have them share the entire chart. Malorie and Michael share their strategies for finding the middle ground while presenting the necessary information.
[29:23] Degeneration — the dreaded word: Lawyers, especially those in Texas, don’t have to run away from the concept of degeneration. A preexisting condition is something that the jury can accept and move forward from; just because someone had a broken arm before doesn’t mean they can’t break their other arm.
[33:11] Using visuals with treating doctors: Malorie and Michael share their tips for using visuals in cases. They explain that visuals are crucial in clarifying a doctor’s point and helping the jury visually connect to the story — but you don’t want to use visuals that aren’t relevant to your trial strategy.
[42:14] The end of a doctor’s testimony: To wrap everything up, you should ask your magic word questions and leave the jury with a takeaway that connects to the next part of your case (which will often be non-economic damages).
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In this popular and award-winning podcast for trial lawyers, noteworthy author, sought-after speaker, and renowned trial lawyer, Michael Cowen explores critical topics distinctive to the legal profession with some of the biggest names in the industry – specifically focused on developing extremely efficient law practices, securing a competitive edge in the industry, and wildly excelling in the courtroom.