Cross-Examining Experts During Social Security Disability Proceedings

Sometimes a Social Security disability proceeding is going well—until experts get up to testify. Administrative law judges and other Social Security disability decision-makers rely heavily on testimony from medical experts and vocational experts. The testimony of these experts can be beneficial if the Social Security disability applicant’s attorney is prepared to handle cross examination effectively. Otherwise, the testimony of these experts can seriously damage an applicant’s claim.

We Put Our Background Knowledge to Work for Our Clients

Lawyers at our firm have heard Social Security expert witnesses testify over and over at our clients’ hearings. We know who the experts are, we understand how they think, we are familiar with their biases, and we can often predict how they will testify at our clients’ hearings. 

This background knowledge helps us prepare to cross-examine these government expert witnesses. We develop our cross-examination to demonstrate to the decision-maker that the expert’s testimony is wrong. Even if we’re not able to convince the decision-maker that the expert’s testimony is wrong, we try to create a record that will help our client win the case at the next level of appeal.

How We Cross-Examine Experts

Although every situation is unique and calls for special tactics and approaches, we follow a few general rules of cross-examination. For example, we believe in:

  • Being prepared. There’s no substitute for proper preparation. You cannot “wing” the cross-examination of an expert. You must prepare for it by reviewing medical documents, case records, and other information. You also need to develop a plan for how you want the cross-examination to go. This doesn’t mean you can’t veer from the plan if the expert witness gives you the opportunity to make a good move. But a plan helps you make sure that you cover all the key points.
  • Exercising control. We guide the cross-examination by asking leading questions. We ask short questions and we use simple language. This allows us to control the witness’s answers. We don’t get rattled when the witness does something unexpected, and we don’t argue with witnesses. Instead, we remain cool, calm, and professional.
  • Guiding the testimony. We use cross-examinations to support our legal arguments, not to gather information.

Additionally, we avoid making mistakes that could hurt our clients’ cases.

Contact our Texas Social Security Disability lawyers to discuss your situation.

The importance of effectively cross examining an expert witness in a Social Security Disability case can’t be underestimated. If you are appealing your Social Security disability claim, we encourage you to start a live chat with us now to find out more about your rights and we invite you to download a FREE copy of our book, Social Security Disability: What You Need to Know.

Carl M. Weisbrod
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Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law