8 Ways to Earn Extra Income From Medical Activities

Leigh Page

Disclosures

March 22, 2016

In This Article

2. Work as an Expert Witness

Serving as an expert witness for attorneys is almost always part-time rather than full-time work. That's because opposing counsel is ready to denounce a full-time expert witness as a "hired gun" who has lost touch with clinical practice. And clinical experience is the real value a good expert brings to legal cases.

Karen Josephson, MD, a solo geriatrician in Long Beach, California, has been moonlighting as a geriatrics expert with law firms for many years. "I really enjoy the work," she says. "It makes me a better doctor because I have a chance to see what other physicians have done and think about how I could have done it better."

Also, "the payment will always be better than in my medical practice," she says. She makes $2000-$5000 per case.

The median hourly fee for file review/preparation for all medical expert witnesses is $350, according to a survey[2] by SEAK Inc., an expert witness training company in Falmouth, Massachusetts.

SEAK offers seminars and other resources for physicians interested in this line of work. Steve Babitsky, president of SEAK, advises fledgling expert witnesses to start a Web page and establish their expertise. "Develop a niche—a small area of expertise where you can dominate your market," he says.

Expert witnesses can work directly for law firms or for services that supply expert witnesses, such as American Medical Forensic Specialists or the TASA Group.

Before starting, Babitsky advises negotiating a retention agreement, a cancellation policy, and—if you can get it—a minimum number of hours for deposition testimony and trial testimony.

In most cases, Babitsky says, the work simply involves giving the lawyer your expert opinion. The next most common task is writing a report to be used in a legal case. A small number of those cases may go to court and require you to give a deposition.

To avoid the "hired gun" accusation, you should keep practicing medicine. "If you would like to testify in medical malpractice cases it is best that you maintain at least a part-time practice," SEAK states on its website.[3]

Before you get the idea that serving as an expert witness might be easy, getting on the witness stand can be a grueling experience. In a recent article,[4] California malpractice attorney Mitch Jackson described his interrogation techniques. He asks experts how often they've worked for the same attorney and how much time they still devote to practicing medicine. And when applicable, he points out that an expert's opinion is "contrary to a well-respected and known treatise," such as a medical society's published standards of care.

"Every once in awhile you must put on the gloves, step between the ropes and do your best to land a knockout punch," he wrote. "Some experts are so full of themselves that they actually make an easy target."

Pros: This work is geared to part-timers, and payments are quite generous.

Cons: If you go to court, you may face rough treatment by opposing attorneys.

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