Lucrative side hustle: Medical expert witness

By Naveed Saleh, MD, MS | Fact-checked by Barbara Bekiesz
Published February 7, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • Medical expert witnesses possess deep medical knowledge that withstands scrutiny, meaning they are well-equipped to provide expert opinions in medical malpractice court.

  • Physicians pursuing this side hustle can continue to practice medicine while earning additional income—the pay for being an expert medical witness can range between $200 and $400 an hour.

  • Medical expert witnesses must demonstrate strong moral integrity and objectivity.

For physicians who are looking for a lucrative side hustle, becoming a medical expert witness may foot the bill. A medical expert witness possesses specialized medical knowledge and provides testimony in legal proceedings. 

Expert testimony is a part of many different types of legal cases, including medical malpractice, wrongful death, and personal injury.

What they do

Expert witnesses can be asked to testify about standard of care in a medical case or the cause of injury. Medical experts offer an expert opinion on medical issues and interpret medical records, diagnosis, and treatments, according to JurisPro,  which hosts a directory of medical expert witnesses.[]

Expert medical witnesses often prepare an affidavit of merit, which alleges that a physician’s actions caused a patient’s injuries, along with any resulting damages.[] An affidavit of merit is required in some jurisdictions with medical malpractice cases. It provides credible insight into the physician’s conduct and whether this conduct violated professional standards. The affidavit of merit is often based on a detailed literature search.

“Medical expert witnesses gather evidence through reviewing medical records, conducting physical exams, and providing expert opinions based on their knowledge and experience in the field,” says JurisPro. “This evidence is then presented in court to support or refute claims.” 

Qualifications 

An expert medical witness should have an expert level of knowledge with regard to a case and plenty of clinical experience as related to the case.

Board-certification is important, and in some states, the expert medical witness must have the same specialty as the physician named in the case. A physician’s knowledge, training, and experience must withstand scrutiny during examination.

Compensation

A medical expert witness earns between $200 and $400 an hour. An organization such as American Medical Forensic Specialists offers support in becoming an expert medical witness.[] Such agencies handle billing and administrative tasks, as well as providing resources to streamline the case review. 

Your ability to accept or decline cases allows you flexibility in scheduling the case work while continuing your practice. Assuming the role of expert medical witness can also keep you abreast of current issues and developments in the field.

Moral duty

According to the AMA Code of Medical Ethics, being an expert witness entails certain moral obligations: “Medical evidence is critical in a variety of legal and administrative proceedings.”[]

"As citizens and as professionals with specialized knowledge and experience, physicians have an obligation to assist in the administration of justice."

AMA Code of Medical Ethics

Medical witnesses must be accurate and transparent in representing their qualifications. Here are some other duties, per the AMA:

  • Testifying honestly

  • Not allowing testimony to be swayed by financial compensation

  • Preserving the patient’s medical interests if testifying in cases involving patients whom they have previously treated

  • Maintaining confidentiality 

  • Making objective evaluations

  • Providing evidence-based explanation

  • Accurately conveying current practices and standards of care, and considering the standards that may have prevailed at the time of the event

Questionable medical expert testimony can be subject to censure by medical boards. “Organized medicine, including state and specialty societies and medical licensing boards, has a responsibility to maintain high standards for medical witnesses by assessing claims of false or misleading testimony and issuing disciplinary sanctions as appropriate,” per the AMA.

Physicians interested in becoming an expert medical witness can visit the following websites: AMFS, Expert Institute, and JurisPro Expert Medical Witness Directory.

What this means for you

Becoming an expert medical witness is an exciting way to supplement your income. Medical witnesses must have deep knowledge in the field and adhere to high moral and ethical standards. The clinical experiences of expert medical witnesses must be able to withstand scrutiny under examination. Agencies can help physicians secure expert medical witness opportunities and provide administrative and billing support, as well as coordinating schedules. 

Read Next: 12 compensation types beyond salary to negotiate in your contract

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