EXPERT WITNESSES / LAWYER WRITING

NeuwirthLaw Case Matters, For Lawyers, Law Practice Management

Every case of mine needs at least one expert witness because my client and I are not allowed to say that an arm was fractured or a herniated disc herniated without a doctor saying it. Them’s the rules. So, I spend a decent amount of time and effort reading the experts’ reports both from my side and the opposing side. The content of the expert report matters. The presentation of the report does not usually matter too much, but it bothers me when an expert has too many typos.

It is not hard to say to an expert, you did not read your report before you sent it out did you? Or, you did not list my client’s deposition in your report, so you did not read it. Or, you called my client Sally, him, etc.  She’s not a him is she? No, she’s not. It opens up a raft of semi-aggressive cross on how the expert is just doing this for the money, not for justice, how they do so many reports, they don’t have time to be careful, and who wants to listen or trust an expert who produces garbage looking reports.

As you may have figured out, I am a lawyer and take writing seriously. I try really, really hard to produce writing that is clear, concise, and proofread. Occasionally, the Neusletter audience lets me know when I have misspelled or failed to proofread.

I don’t mind a typo or two in a four-page report. I think any decent expert could respond to a question about typos by saying well I spend all my time working on patients and less so on their reports, counsellor. But, I am currently working on a case where I have four reports to deal with and each has a variety of typos, mis-wordings, poor grammar etc. At some point, that just reflects on me and looks shabby or shoddy. Why four experts? It’s a biggish case. The client was a pedestrian struck by a car and was making $200,000 a year in salary. So, that case needs an expert in orthopedics, an expert in physiatry who can associate the ortho injuries with the job difficulties, and then an expert to project future income losses.  Another expert is needed for another injury that is harder to explain.

So, while I am paying $1500 or more per expert report, the quality of expert report writing is crap. I now must follow up and tell their admin assistant to correct the spelling in paragraph four, put a period in paragraph three, and correct the year or the date etc.  It’s annoying. Doctors and their offices don’t use redlining or google docs and so this is a cumbersome process that simply delays things.

It really does not change the nature of what the expert will testify to. But it sends a subtle message to the defense that they cannot accuse the expert of being sloppy because his reports are fully proofread by me. Is that my job? I guess so. I have always proofread things. I get that people don’t write well or carefully, but the work product that you produce can expose your expert to self-inflicted wounds.