Taking a Primary Care Physician Deposition

Primary Care Physician depositions graphic

In the intricate world of personal injury law, the deposition of a primary care physician stands as a pivotal moment. The information provided could be the key to success for your client.

Understanding the nuances of conducting a primary care physician deposition is paramount for attorneys navigating the complexities of personal injury cases. From extracting crucial medical insights to laying the groundwork for compelling courtroom narratives, a well-executed deposition can be the linchpin for success. 

In this guide, we delve into the strategies, considerations, and best practices that empower personal injury lawyers to master the art of taking primary care physician depositions. For additional resources for plaintiff’s attorneys, reach out to Fried Goldberg online or by calling (877) 591-1801.

Read on for insights and further assets for fellow attorneys. At Fried Goldberg, the knowledge we’ve gained during decades of groundbreaking litigation is freely shared to help strengthen legal acumen and for the betterment of the community.

Taking the Doctors Deposition for Trial

In any personal injury case, the deposition of your client’s treating physician is one of the most important events in the litigation. Whenever your client has undergone a surgery or other significant medical procedure, you should always take the doctor’s deposition well in advance of trial. 

Here are proven strategies for taking the doctor’s deposition for trial:

1. Prioritize This Information 

Always make sure to obtain all of your client’s pre-incident medical records well before the deposition — and ideally, well before filing suit — so that you know about any prior similar complaints or treatment before you depose the doctor.

2. Vet and Prepare the Doctor

Schedule a meeting or at least a telephone call with the doctor before disclosing them as an expert. During your initial call with the doctor, establish the following information:

  • Go over your client’s prior medical history and ensure that the doctor is aware of any relevant history. 
  • Ask the doctor if their opinions are impacted in any way by the prior medical history, and make sure you know how they will answer the questions you want to ask them at their deposition. 
  • If the doctor has an unfavorable response to one of your questions, then you need to remove that question from your outline and be prepared to deal with the possibility that the defense lawyer will ask that question on cross-examination.
  • If the doctor has unfavorable opinions overall, then you should also consider hiring another doctor to perform a record review to see if the other doctor’s opinions are more favorable to your client’s case. 
  • If the doctor’s opinions are favorable, make sure to go over the methodology that the doctor used to come to those opinions and include questions about their methodology in your outline; the best way to insulate your expert witness from a Daubert challenge is to ensure that they explain their methodology during their deposition, especially their process of differential diagnosis (i.e. considering other possible causes for the injury before coming to the conclusion that the most likely cause was the subject-incident).

Once assessed and found acceptable, make sure the doctor knows about any previous medical issues the patient had that may complicate testimony. Ensure the physician is fully prepared so that he or she is not attacked on cross-examination for “not having all the facts,” and so that you can minimize the negative impact of those issues at trial.

3. Create a Timeline

If a client has a complicated medical history of similar complaints/treatment, consider creating a “timeline of treatment” summarizing the key events and use it as an exhibit during the deposition.

4. Create Diagrams and/or a Surgical Storyboard

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a medical diagram is worth ten thousand words. 

In a case with serious injuries, always get a company to make medical diagrams so that the doctor can use them as demonstrative exhibits during the deposition. 

For example, if your client underwent a spinal fusion surgery, then you should get the “big 3” diagrams made

  1. A diagram of the first MRI after the incident that shows the disc herniation or other positive finding
  2. A “surgical storyboard” diagram outlining the various steps the doctor had to go through to complete the surgery 
  3. A diagram of the X-rays taken after the surgery showing the permanent hardware that was installed during the surgery. 

For the storyboard, you will need a copy of the operative report from the surgery. For the other two diagrams, you will need to obtain copies of your client’s actual MRI and X-ray films from their medical providers so that those images can be included on the diagram alongside an illustration that makes it easier for the jury to see the disc herniation and the permanent hardware. 

If the case goes to trial, you should also have the medical diagrams printed onto a large posterboard that you can use during your closing argument.

5. Stay Concise

Lastly, do your best to keep the deposition concise and to the point. 

For most cases, 15-20 minutes should be plenty of time to complete your direct examination. 

Look for opportunities to have one doctor testify instead of two. For example, if one doctor performed epidural injections prior to surgery and then a second doctor performed surgery, the surgeon should be able to testify about all of the conservative care — including injections, physical therapy, etc. — that was attempted before surgery was done. 

The faster that you can present the medical evidence, the more likely it is that the jury will be attentive and fully engaged with this critical part of your case.

This information on taking a physician’s deposition for trial was presented by Adam Smith at one of our regular webinars. It is available in full for anyone who missed it to watch in Fried Goldberg’s archive.

Fried Goldberg is committed to promoting attorney excellence in the personal injury sphere. Contact us at (877) 591-1801 for co-counsel agreements or attend our free litigation skills clinic for more information.

The Value of a Robust Physician Deposition

A physician deposition can be immensely valuable for personal injury attorneys for several reasons:

  • Gathering medical expertise: Physicians possess crucial medical expertise that can help attorneys understand complex medical issues related to their clients’ injuries. By deposing a physician, attorneys can delve into the specifics of the injury, its prognosis, treatment options, and potential long-term effects. This evidence can strengthen the case by providing a clear understanding of the injuries sustained, their causes, and their impact on the client’s life.
  • Challenging opposing medical testimony: In personal injury cases, opposing parties often present their own medical experts to challenge the claims made by the plaintiff. Deposing the opposing party’s physician enables the attorney to understand their arguments and potentially identify weaknesses or inconsistencies in their testimony, which can be used to counter their claims effectively during trial.
  • Preparing for cross-examination: Depositions provide attorneys with the opportunity to practice cross-examination techniques. By questioning the physician during the deposition, attorneys can anticipate the types of responses they might receive during trial. This will help in developing strategies to effectively challenge the opposing party’s medical evidence.
  • Educating juries: In cases that go to trial, attorneys may need to educate the jury about complex medical issues. Deposition testimony from physicians can help attorneys present medical information in a clear and understandable manner, making it easier for jurors to comprehend the extent of the plaintiff’s injuries and the impact on their life.
  • Negotiating settlements: Even if a case does not go to trial, the information gathered from a physician deposition can be invaluable during settlement negotiations. Armed with detailed medical evidence, attorneys can negotiate from a position of strength and advocate for fair compensation on behalf of their clients.

In essence, a robust physician deposition provides personal injury attorneys with the necessary medical expertise, evidence, and strategic insight to effectively represent their clients’ interests and pursue favorable outcomes in personal injury cases.

Contact Fried Goldberg

A comprehensive personal injury settlement or verdict can literally save someone’s life. The more accurate and well-organized your medical information before negotiations or trial, the stronger your case. This could mean funds that provide a dignified life for the severely injured, and vital support for families caring for their loved one.

At Fried Goldberg, we are honored to have secured so many significant verdicts and settlements for our clients, and we want fellow attorneys to see the same success for injured plaintiffs.

For more professional advice or opportunities, contact us directly at (877) 591-1801. Whether you’re local to Georgia or South Carolina, or litigating a commercial truck case anywhere in the country, we are honored to help our peers and up-and-coming attorneys. The more legal excellence we achieve, the better the outcomes for our clients, our neighbors, and our society.

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