Witnesses are the small percentage of individuals who are the best of the best in their respective industries. Under the best of circumstances, a good expert witness can be hard to find, and if a case teeters on that expert witness’ opinion, only the best will do. But for non-continental states like Hawaii and Alaska, finding an expert witness that is both qualified and free of conflicts can be a nearly impossible task given the small populations and geographical isolation.
For example, according to a 2006 report by the Alaska Physician Supply Task Force, Alaska has a severe shortage of physicians. Indeed, up to 16% of rural physician positions in Alaska were vacant in 2004, with only 205 physicians are providing patient care per every 100,000 residents (this is compared to the national average of 238/100,000). Similarly, Hawaii also faces severe doctor shortages. In fact, a report prepared by the John A. Burns School of Medicine indicates that as of 2011, the state of Hawaii was facing a shortage of over 600 physicians, or about 20% of the total state physician workforce.
As a result, if an attorney has a medical malpractice or personal injury case in Alaska or Hawaii requiring the service of a medical expert witness, it can be exceedingly difficult to find one who will be available. Aside from the increased work burden these physicians experience as a result of doctor shortages, it may be virtually impossible to find a medical expert witness who does not have a conflict of interest due to the small community size. Many doctors will have a conflict of interests because they might know the defendant, the opposing expert witness, the other side’s attorney, etc. Even if the local communities are not small, statewide associations and professional organizations, as well as connected hospital organizations tend to create conflict of interest for Alaska or Hawaii expert witnesses.
As a result, many Alaskan and Hawaiian attorneys turn to California expert witnesses when they cannot locate the experts they want in their own state. California has two of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States, Los Angeles and San Francisco, a robust and highly skilled professional work force. California’s medical and technology communities are known to attract some of the best talents from around the world. California’s relative proximity to both Hawaii and Alaska also makes the Golden State a good source for expert witnesses. Many California expert witnesses are willing to travel for out-of-state cases.
In fact, virtually every highly skilled and educated profession suffers from the same types of shortages in Hawaii and Alaska. California’s urban population offers high number of not just medical professionals, but also engineers, scientists, University professors, software developers, business experts and many others.
As a result, California expert witnesses serve not only the needs of California, but Hawaii and Alaska, as well. However, they are also popular in a number of other surrounding states, such as Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Arizona. Some of the nation’s top expert witness are residents of California and have been retained nationwide for various high-profile case, when the attorneys require the services of a top caliber expert witnesses.
By: Christopher Eri, J.D.