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Never Ask the Doctor Why

In a medical malpractice trial, the plaintiff's attorney has the opportunity of questioning and cross-examining the defense's medical expert. However, he makes the critical mistake of asking, "Doctor tell us why?" This gives the doctor opportunity to provide an elaborate explanation.

The lawyer was wrong to ask such a question to the witness because it opened up a box, and gave the doctor the opportunity to go ahead and explain to the jury, everything that the defense was claiming. Such a question is very wrong, and the attorney clearly does not understand the purpose of cross-examination.

Proper Line of Questioning

If the attorney knew the basics of cross-examination, he would never have asked the doctor why. When you are cross-examining a witness, you need to do a couple of things. While questioning the witness, you firstly should have an important agenda, which is putting words into the witness's mouth. Your questioning should be such that it only provides the opportunity to the witness to agree, disagree, or say I do not know. By following such line of questioning, you as an attorney are actually telling the story to the jury. Proper cross-examination would have questions like these:

· Doctor isn't it true that you saw the patient on this date?

· Isn't it true that on that day the patient had the following complaints?

· When the patient complained about these problems, isn't it true that you need to perform these tests to confirm the issue and to determine the medical problem?

The lawyer is asking leading questions by which he is putting words into the doctor's mouth. These questions require a yes or no answer. These types of questions serve the lawyer in many ways. Apart from putting words into the doctor's mouth, the lawyer is able to keep a tight leash over what the doctor is saying.

The Question Why can Destroy Your Case

The moment the lawyer asks the question why, the doctor will have the opportunity to give a long explanation, which can destroy your claim and your case. The doctor is no longer on a leash, and the lawyer has no way of reining in the witness about what he is saying. The doctor will be able to explain to the jury elaborately why the plaintiff is wrong and why there is no claim, and the lawyer will not be able to stop the answer.

Even if the lawyer starts objecting to what the witness is saying, the judge will ask the lawyer for a valid reason for the objection. Since the question why is asked by the lawyer, the witness has every right to answer the question as he pleases. After all, you gave them an open ended question! The witness will take this birthday present to destroy the opposition's case by giving elaborate explanations and reasons why the claim should not be considered.

Once the jury has heard such explanations, they will be inclined to rule in favor of the defense. The main purpose of cross-examination is to make the witness answer yes or no, so that the lawyer can maintain tight control over what the witness is saying. Therefore it would be wrong to ask the question why, which provides the opportunity to the witness to explain things that are detrimental to the plaintiff's case.

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