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Understand When Leading Questions are Permitted and When they are Not

October 5, 2014 Legal Terminology

If you have suffered an adverse reaction as a result of medical malpractice or sustained a personal injury in New York, you are entitled to claim compensation. However, this is not a simple procedure because the doctor who committed the error, the person responsible for the personal injury, or their insurance company is likely to dispute the claim and either refuses to make the payment or try and reduce the compensation they offer.

Options before the Affected Party

Cross Examining a Witness

Leading questions are permitted only under certain circumstances.

If you have been affected by medical malpractice or sustained a physical injury you need to consult with a New York medical malpractice and personal injury lawyer before you file your claim for compensation. If the insurance company disputes your claim, your lawyer will then use the information already collected to file a case in court.

Examining Witnesses

When the court hears the case, your lawyer will put witnesses such as medical experts and others on the stand and ask them questions that help the jury understand the events and circumstances of the case. These questions are of two types – preliminary and main.

Preliminary Questions

The preliminary questions asked by your lawyer will help establish the credentials of the witness. For instance, the lawyer will ask if the medical expert went to a particular medical school, completed their residency at a particular hospital, and whether they are board certified. Most of these questions are leading, meaning that the witness just has to answer either yes or no. Most defense attorneys will not object to leading questions at this phase as they help to quickly establish the credentials of the witness.

Main Questions

However, when your lawyer moves on to the specifics of the case, the questions are expected to be open ended. This means that the lawyer will ask the witness what medical reports they examined, what conclusions they drew from them, and so on. The witness will they describe their actions and findings. However, if your lawyer asks leading questions at this stage of the proceedings, the defense lawyer can object. This is because the jury will have to make up their minds about the credibility of the testimony of the expert witness as an independent person presenting their views.

Essentially, your lawyer begins by questioning the witness with leading questions, but later on turns the process around and expects the witness to describe their findings and views in their own words.


If the defense lawyer raises objections about the leading questions, the judge can either sustain the objections, in which case the witness is prohibited from answering the question, or overrule the objections, in which case the witness is obliged to answer the question.

When presenting testimony from an expert witness, your lawyer should be using open ended questions that help the jury assess the credibility of the witness.

If you have any questions regarding medical malpractice or personal injury cases, a competent law firm specializing in these practices.