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Preparing expert opinion reports

Doctor typing on laptop, with images of electronic documents in foreground.

2 minutes

Published: May 2024

The information in this article was correct at the time of publishing

Physicians may be asked by a party in a legal proceeding to prepare a report that documents their opinion on issues in the legal action, such as whether the defendant physician's care met the requisite standard.

While there is no requirement to act as an expert for either a plaintiff or defence, many physicians feel a professional obligation to do so.

Regardless of the nature of the retainer or who pays for the services, experts have a duty to be objective, professional, and fair. Experts should not act as advocates for the party who retained them. In some provinces and territories, experts must certify that they understand that their duty is owed to the court and not to any particular party.

Getting started

Before providing an expert opinion, you should:

  • Be satisfied that you have the necessary expertise and no conflicts of interest.
  • Ensure you have received and carefully reviewed the required documents so that you are aware of the relevant facts on which you can base your opinion. These documents generally include the pleadings, medical records, and transcripts of evidence given in the proceeding.

You may choose to ask the retaining lawyer if you are likely to be required to testify at trial. For more information on testifying as an expert, see the article “Testifying: What it involves and how to do it effectively.”

Content of the report

Depending on your province or territory, you might be required to include the following information in your expert opinion report:

  • list of any literature or documents you reviewed
  • instructions given
  • description of factual assumptions
  • summary of the range of opinions
  • the reasons for your opinion within that range

You may also be requested to disclose all or parts of your compiled file, such as letters from the retaining lawyer or drafts of your report. Before responding to such a request, contact the retaining lawyer and, if necessary, the CMPA.

If you are a CMPA member, you may request assistance from the CMPA should a medico-legal issue arise from your role as an expert.

Additional reading

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this learning material is for general educational purposes only and is not intended to provide specific professional medical or legal advice, nor to constitute a "standard of care" for Canadian healthcare professionals. The use of CMPA learning resources is subject to the foregoing as well as the CMPA's Terms of Use.