Witnesses are critical in personal injury lawsuits. Regular (otherwise known as “lay” or “percipient”) witnesses can tell a jury what they saw, e.g. how a driver failed to yield and struck your car, how an apartment complex refused to secure a banister for months until you placed your hand on it and fell, and the like. However, these witnesses can generally only establish that you suffered an injury. You will often need another type of witness—a medical expert witness—to provide an opinion on the precise cause and extent of your injuries for purposes of determining whether the defendant is liable and the amount of damages that you should be awarded. the following article provides a concise examination of how medical experts can assist you in litigating your personal injury case.
Consulting a Medical Expert
Assuming that you have suffered an injury—whether in an auto accident, a slip and fall accident, or in any other type of personal injury scenario—and assuming you have contacted a lawyer, that lawyer may recommend that you obtain a medical expert’s opinion on the cause, nature, and extent of your injuries. Your attorney will likely enlist a medical professional to review your medical history and any medical notes compiled at the time you sustained and your injury, as well as ongoing related treatment. This medical expert may or may not testify in your eventual personal injury trial; she or he may rather serve as a counselor who can assist your attorney in evaluating the strength of your case and your strategy as you proceed through pretrial litigation and trial.
- Consulting Opinion on the Cause and Extent of Your Injury: A consulting expert may be able to rule out preexisting conditions as the cause of any injuries you may have suffered, strengthening your ability to prove that the negligent act or acts of the defendant in your case (e.g. a store owner, landlord, treating physician, or the driver who hit you) caused your injuries. a consulting expert may also be able to provide an opinion on when you may be able to return to work, if at all, thereby assisting your attorney in evaluating your potential claim for lost wages.
- Consulting Opinion Supporting a Pretrial Demand Letter and Mediation Brief: A consulting expert will also likely play a key role in helping your attorney establish the amount that you will be demand that the defendant pay to settle your lawsuit in a pre-filing demand letter. Attorneys will generally send a demand letter with an itemized list of your damages and potential recovery at trial to a defendant before they file a lawsuit in court. This allows the defendant to pay you and make you whole for your injuries without the (usually extraordinarily high) costs associated with formal litigation.
The consulting expert’s report on damages and the cause and extent of your injury may also help your attorney write a convincing mediation brief. Most courts require the parties to at least attempt to settle their dispute short of trial by presenting arguments to a neutral third-party mediator, and a consulting expert can be critical in showing a mediator the value of your case, so that the mediator in turn can advise a defendant to settle now rather than losing at trial and expending even more time on a weak case.
Medical Malpractice Expert Witness
If your personal injury case arises from improper medical treatment, e.g. a surgery that went wrong because a doctor did not follow the standards of medical care accepted in his field, because a doctor sponge left behind in a surgery site that leads to infection, an MRSA infection resulted from a hospital improperly sanitizing their facilities, or the like, you will almost certainly need the help of a medical expert to make your case.
Furthermore, if you have a history of preexisting injuries to the same body part or you subsequently injured the same body part that was injured in the accident at issue, your claim will likely require the opinion of a medical expert to assess the extent to which the accident is responsible for your injury, symptoms, and required treatment.
Testifying Medical Expert Witness
A consulting medical expert (or team of consulting experts) may be crucial to drafting your initial personal injury demand letter, any mediation brief, and to crafting your pretrial litigation strategy, but as your trial date approaches, your attorney will likely need to designate and coordinate with a testifying medical expert witness who will actually take the stand and offer an opinion on your behalf at trial. This testifying medical expert may or may not be one of your consulting medical experts; your attorney may specifically seek out a testifying medical expert who has appeared in court before on numerous occasions and who understands the challenges and potential pitfalls associated with testifying in court. Your attorney or opposing counsel may also schedule a deposition of the medical expert to answer questions about their medical report under oath, outside of court.
Your testifying expert witness will likely provide an opinion as to whether the injuries you sustained were caused by the negligence of the defendant (whether that defendant is a driver, medical professional, business owner, or anyone else), and also explain why, in his or her opinion, your injuries were solely or primarily attributable to the defendant’s negligent conduct, rather than some other condition or circumstance, like an intervening event or a preexisting or subsequent injury. This testifying expert may also explain your prognosis, course of treatment, and expected return to work date, if any, to help the jury settle on the amount of your economic damages.
Navigating an Injury Case
There is no need to feel overwhelmed by the prospect of hiring an expert witness for your case. During an initial complementary consultation, our team of experienced personal injury lawyers will assess your claim to determine if it has merit and whether hiring a medical expert would be advantageous for your case. as a firm that handles countless injury claims each year, we regularly work with trusted, leading medical experts, who may be helpful to your claim.
Contact our skilled and knowledgeable personal injury lawyers today at (949) 234-6034 for an assessment of your injury claim.