When we bring a medical malpractice lawsuit in New York seeking compensation for injuries caused by a doctor or hospital, we are required to put on expert medical testimony to support our claim. The reason is so that a medical expert can explain to the jury what was done wrong and what injuries you suffered as a result of that wrongdoing.
Likewise, the defense attorneys who represent the doctors and hospitals will also bring in medical experts to support their position that they did nothing wrong.
When I get up to question a medical expert and cross examine him at trial, a collateral attack can be very effective.
First, a collateral attack means going after the doctor about things that do not directly relate to the facts and issues in this particular case.
Why would a trial attorney want to question the medical expert about things that don't have any direct relationship to the issues the doctor is discussing at trial?
The answer is significant.
Some areas of a collateral attack including the doctor's history of past testimony he has given in other cases.
I may want to know how much money he has earned from testifying over the past year.
I also want to know about certain testimony and statements he has made in other cases that have gone to trial.
Importantly, if there is something he has said that contradicts what he is saying now, that is a critical point I would want to know about.
If he has some sort of criminal conviction in the past, I would want to bring that out to show the jury that he may not be entirely truthful and have credibility issues.
All of these issues can indirectly affect how a jury evaluates this doctor's credibility.
When a medical expert takes the witness stand, his credibility is everything. If I can show that he has less than perfect credibility, I can make an argument to the jury that he should not be believed. It will ultimately be up to a jury to determine what weight to give to the medical expert's testimony and whether or not he is a credible and believable witness.
A collateral attack on an expert can be devastating if done properly and if you have the right ammunition.