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At the Round Table with Rehabilitation & Pain Medicine Expert, Dr. Steven Feinberg

November 9, 2021

In this episode… 

On this episode of our podcast Discussions at the Round Table, Steven Feinberg discusses with host Michelle Loux on what he teaches his younger colleagues that are new to medical legal work. He shares knowledge on what new experts should expect when working for either the defense or plaintiff, the mindset to approach casework, and the importance of making yourself available for your law firm clients. 



Episode Transcript:

Note: Transcript has been lightly edited for clarity. 

Host: Michelle Loux, Assistant Project Manager, Round Table Group

Guest: Dr. Steven Feinberg, Medical Director, Feinberg Medical Group

Announcer: This episode is brought to you by Round Table Group, the Experts on Experts®. We’ve been connecting attorneys with experts for over 25 years. Find out more at

Michelle Loux: Welcome to our show, Discussions at the Round Table. I’m your host, Michelle Loux, and today my guest is Dr. Steven Feinberg, Medical Director of Feinberg Medical Group. He specializes in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Pain Medicine.

Dr. Feinberg thank you for joining me today to discuss your role as an expert witness. Let’s start with the primary question of this episode, what do you wish you knew the first time you were an expert witness? 

Dr. Steven Feinberg: First of all, in terms of things that I would try to teach, my younger colleagues who are interested in doing Independent Medical Examinations (IME) type work or medical-legal work, I think it is critically important to realize that not only do you need to be a great physician but there are special skills involving IME where I do an equal amount of plaintiff and defense work. I want to be careful how I say this. I do not like it when my colleagues sell their souls to make one side or the other happy. I pride myself on trying to do the right thing. We all have our biases and beliefs, but I just find it much easier in a deposition or a trial to have not started out exaggerating something I cannot defend.

Another thing I would tell my younger colleagues and would have told myself 50 years ago when I started is that it is so important to see yourself as being helpful to the case in general. What that means to me is that whether it is a defense case or a plaintiff case it is my role to help the attorney understand the medical part. The liability whether it is medical or not medical, so they do not go down a course that ends up destroying their case on the plaintiff’s side. If you are a plaintiff attorney putting out money you can get, I will use the word killed with losing a lot of money. If an expert tells you something that sinks you deeper in their case on the defense side, I think a good defense attorney needs to know they will get in trouble with their case if they have an expert who is going to be picked apart in a deposition or trial.

I do a lot of complex regional pain syndrome cases, and this was a case of a young man in his late teens who had been hit on a bicycle by a car, and the defense had hired a neurologist who said he examined him and said he didn’t have CRPS. This young man was being treated at Stanford, where I am on the faculty. I had never seen him, but we had multiple Stanford and other doctors saying that he did have CRPS. I looked at the neurologist’s report and said his exam supported that diagnosis. In this case of the defense attorney, for some reason was worried about the case and asked me to kind of be the behind-the-scenes guy. I evaluated, but never saw the young man, obviously, and I asked the attorney to drive down to my office. I thought this was such a big case and look you cannot use me as an expert and your neurologist because. It is clear to me that this young man has CRPS, so you are going to get killed at trial. The expert witness on the plaintiff’s side is excellent, knows his or her business, and they settled the case that afternoon and the young man got a pretty good settlement, but from the defense point of view, they saved a lot of money. I am not sure that is the best example, but I think it is just important to be helpful. Do not exaggerate or try to make the attorney happy.

Michelle Loux: Right. You did bring up the other side. Did you find that is typical where you know who the other experts are once it is listed?

Dr. Steven Feinberg: I have been around a long time and there are some exceptions, particularly in my space, which is the brain injury, pain, or the spinal cord injury space. I know the other folks that do this kind of work and I want to be careful what I say here, but some people do just plaintiff work. Some people do just defense work. Sometimes they are okay, but sometimes they stretch things. I can think of one case I was on for the defense of a woman who was quadriplegic. My job was not to say she was not a quadriplegic but to limit the damages because the plaintiff expert is someone that does only plaintiff work and it was just nonsensical. This was a very nice woman. I visited her at her home to do the exam. She wrote to me and asked me to be her treating doctor. That is another point I want to make. Whether I am the plaintiff or the defense expert, I always treat people with respect and dignity. I have got to tell you, and I am not bragging, but it is not unusual to have the other side after the case is settled, to call me and say, “You did such a good job. I would like to use you on my side.” I think that is great, that is what I do.

I think an organization like Round Table Group, I think the value of your services is to assist the party with getting the best expert who is going to give them what they need. The other thing I did not mention was accessibility. I give my cell phone number out and not that I want to be called in the middle of the night, but I am available 24/7. I am available when I am overseas on a vacation. I think that is a big problem that some experts are kind of holier than thou, or whatever the expression is, and remain aloof and frustrate the attorney. I think availability is critical.

There is a lot of competition out there and I am impressed with how many attorneys call me and I always say, “How did you get my name?” Much of it is word of mouth, I mean the kind of things that are critical in the end. I know enough about your company to know what a good job you do. I think there is tremendous potential for growth, despite the number of IME companies. The service-oriented ones.

Michelle Loux: When you do the IME for cases, do you find that you have a lot of independent medical exams, or is it more of just the consulting side of the business? Which kind of business do you get more from the attorneys?

Dr. Steven Feinberg: When I use the term IME, I am talking about non-worker’s compensation or personal injury. That could be a divorce case believe it or not. It could be a long-term disability. There is sometimes some stress put on the doctor, particularly in long-term disability cases. For instance, an insurance company may only want you to answer certain questions, and it may be hard to answer those questions. I try to not be an insurance company doctor and get a sense of whether this person has a legitimate problem. I also think, and this is advice to my young colleagues you need to answer the questions you are asked. That is your only job. You are not an advocate for either side. When you do that, you get respect and in the long run, you get more business and at least for the insurance company cases for long-term disability, you may get a letter back saying you expand on this or that. You may not get paid for that extra time, but that is part of the job, to do it right. Once again, never to shill for the insurance company just it is great to be able to sleep at night and they have a great reputation.

I think it is important for younger people that want to do this kind of work to make themselves available. I never mind having a half-hour phone conversation with an attorney and never charge for that. It is kind of fun. It will pay off in the long run and I think if you look at doing this kind of work it can be enjoyable and a lot of fun. You are kind of a medical detective. I think that is about it then, so thank you.

Michelle Loux: Excellent, thank you.

Dr. Steven Feinberg: What a pleasure to meet you.

Michelle Loux: You as well. Enjoy the rest of your day.

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After a quarter century helping litigators find the right expert witnesses, Round Table Group’s network contains some of the world’s greatest experts. On the Discussions at the Round Table podcast, we talk to some of them about what’s new in their field of study and their experience as expert witnesses.

At the Round Table with Rehabilitation & Pain Medicine Expert, Dr. Steven Feinberg

Dr. Steven Feinberg, Medical Director, Feinberg Medical Group

Dr. Steven Feinberg is Board Certified by the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, the American Board of Pain Medicine and the American Board of Electrodiagnostic Medicine. He is a California Qualified Medical Evaluator (QME) and a past president (1996) of the American Academy of Pain Medicine.