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What is an Orthopedic Expert Witness?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 02 October 2018
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An orthopedic expert witness is a person with professional experience in the field of orthopedics who can testify on the stand in a case involving this medical field or related matters. Most commonly, expert witnesses of this nature are called in civil suits involving charges of malpractice, but they can also testify in other trials where the expert opinion of an orthopedic doctor or related professional is needed. Like other expert witnesses, orthopedic expert witnesses are usually compensated for their time on the stand, and the amount of the compensation is variable.

Either side of a case can call an orthopedic expert witness, and in some cases dueling witnesses will be called. In civil cases, plaintiffs often use such witnesses to show that a doctor's behavior in a given case was unusual or did not meet with established standards and practices, while the defense may use a witness to show that a doctor's standard of care was reasonable. Civil cases involving suits for injuries can also employ an orthopedic expert witness to discuss the injuries and their impact on the plaintiff. In criminal trials, an orthopedic expert witness may testify about the nature of injuries to the bone or the use of orthopedic records in victim identification.

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The side responsible for calling the witness has an opportunity to question the witness first, asking a series of questions intended to draw out testimony to support a given position in the case. The other side is permitted to cross examine the witness after the initial testimony to get clarification. It is common for both sides to question the witness closely about experience and credentials to provide the jury with information to use when evaluating the credibility of the witness' testimony.

It is permissible for the opposing side to ask about the compensation a witness has received, including monetary compensation in addition to food, transport, and housing. Compensation for testimony can vary in cost and an orthopedic expert witness may also be involved as a consultant in the case before taking the stand, adding to the fees commanded by the witness.

Databases of orthopedic and other expert witnesses are available for people looking to find an experienced witness. These databases may list some of the cases a witness has testified in, along with their outcome, and can provide information about fees. It can be advisable to research several witnesses before choosing one to approach to make sure an orthopedic expert witness is a good fit for a case while getting comparison information about fees and other forms of compensation witnesses may expect.

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