Jul 19, 2020

Experts and Injuries, Proving Your Causation, Liability, Damages


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When you are facing a personal injury case, you can and should get help from a lawyer immediately if you were the victim. Your lawyer will do his or her best to get you reasonable compensation for all damages as soon as possible. Also, he or she will take all the needed steps to ensure that the defending party agrees to pay the claimed amount. One of the steps in personal injury case preparation is the hiring of legal and medical experts.

An "expert" is defined as A person with specific knowledge, understanding skill, and experience in a particular practice, methodology, modality, or education. Personal injury lawyers often hire various types of experts to help them prove certain aspects of their cases, such as duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages.  

A “lay” or “fact” witness is only allowed to testify as to the facts. For example, they tell a jury what the defendant said, or what the plaintiff said, or what they heard someone say. Contrast these with experts. Experts are allowed to use their special training, education, knowledge, experience, and skill when testifying. In other words, they can give an opinion about whether it is more likely than not that the causes and effects of a personal injury were connected to and caused by the defendant's conduct.

Typically, there are two classifications of experts in a personal injury case.

  1. Consulting experts - This expert will advise and guide plaintiffs and their lawyers as to any technical issues in the case. And that advice can let a lawyer know if it's smarter to settle or go to trial for a win.
  2. Testifying experts - Conversely, testifying experts provide expert reports, charts, graphs, video reconstruction, day in the life videos, and all manner of aid before and trial. And they provide these items in tandem with their testimony at trial.

Some cases remain too complicated to prove in a short time with layman's evidence. Or the defending party may continue adamant he or she didn't commit any negligent act. However, it is always the highest priority for the lawyer to settle the case outside the court. In many cases, the lawyer can't achieve this target without showing the other side that the plaintiff is serious about winning. Hiring experts early on shows the claims adjuster that the plaintiff has built a solid, winnable case. And this encourages a reasonable settlement before a full-blown trial.

  • After all the attempts to settle the case outside the court go without any results, the next step is court.

Then the case finally enters the court. And that’s where the real battle begins. Court cases involve logic, theories, tests, experiences, professionalism, etc. The court puts everything to the test. The plaintiff then attempts to prove the negligence of the party at fault. And the at-fault party defends its position by claiming otherwise.


 When Do I Need Experts?

Now it has become clear that the defendant is going to defend its position to the last breath. Then experts become necessary to untie the knots in the case. These experts use the experience of their fields to prove or disprove the causes and after-effects of the event. They use their knowledge to estimate what might have happened.

What Are Some Types of Experts Personal Injury Lawyers Hire?

Personal injury lawyers will tend to hire the following experts most to prove up the plaintiff's claims:

  • Medical Experts - Medical experts can be retained treating and non retained treating experts. Different rules are required for using the testimony and reports of each type of medical expert. Often in injury cases, these medical experts will be one of the plaintiff's treating physicians. Once qualified by the court to testify, this medical personnel will testify as to the nature and extent of the injuries, as well as any treatment modalities available, or taken. Medical experts tell the court and the jury if there is a connection between the injuries and the accident, how it has changed you physically and mentally. And they will also opine as to any future negative impact it has had on your life. Also, these experts may offer their expert opinions as to any long-term treatment or rehabilitation needed over the plaintiff's life.
  • Highway Safety Experts - These experts often work side by side, the biomechanical expert, to give the jury a better grasp of the safety issues that may have caused or contributed to the accident. Highway safety experts or related types of independent engineers may be called testify about the road and the conditions on the day of the accident (rain, sleet, construction work, etc.). These experts are often used in cases against large tour bus companies or road workers, such as Caltrans and its employees and agents.
  • Accident Reconstructionist - Accident reconstructionists are usually engineers. Normally, they have extensive experience and education using statistics, computer models, and other software to recreate how an accident occurred. Often, scientific devices and other methods will be utilized to clock the vehicle speeds at the precise moment of impact. Also, the size and characteristics of vehicles, such as an SUV versus a motorcycle, are all figured. Those calculations are added to the mathematical formulas used by these experts. Because of this information, along with whatever a biomechanist provides, can help reconstruct a video representation of the event, and how the body reacted to the forces and impacts present. In other words, these experts can help show the severity, extent, and causes of the plaintiff's injuries. 
    • Biomechanical Engineers -A biomechanical engineer is retained in personal injury cases to analyze the plaintiff's hospital reports and medical records. And working with the accident reconstruction experts, they can provide a better picture of the mechanisms of each injury caused to the plaintiff during the collision. Biomechanics is part of the Biomedical Engineering field. So it includes the practical study and application of more “traditional” engineering disciplines, including chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, and electrical engineering. In personal injury cases, the goal of hiring these experts is to understand how various forces, things, and forces can alter or injure the human body. Using the fundamentals of mechanics as well as mechanical engineering, these experts are also crucial to injury cases in analyzing and evaluating damaged biological parts and tissues, along with their connection to the mechanism of the disputed injury. In other words, the defendant is going to argue it was something different than the defendant's car, or defective product that led to the damage due to the biomechanics involved. And the plaintiff will say the opposite. A medical doctor will generally offer opinions about the accuracy of any diagnosis, prognosis, or reasonableness of prescribed treatments regarding the standard of care. Unlike medical experts, biomechanical engineers, are more concerned with how the medical condition was caused. And this is called the "mechanism of injury." Their job is to opine whether or not the injuries are consistent with the forces involved in the accident.
  • Mental Health Experts - A considerable part of the plaintiff's case is pain and suffering. In some cases, it is assumed some pain and suffering will be associated with a fender bender. But in some instances such as fact patterns involving a catastrophic motorcycle accident, for example, or one that ends in wrongful death, or amputation, for example, a mental health expert will likely be hired by both sides. These experts can help prescribe medications, document, and treat severe pain and distress from the grieving and associated with the particular injury. From the plaintiff's perspective, these experts remain vital for increasing the award and mitigating the plaintiff's suffering and losses. Most of all, this expert's function at trial is to testify how the victim was impacted psychologically and why. The information given by the other side's expert will try and find holes in the opinion of the plaintiff's expert as to their findings and foundation used to arrive at those findings. Defendant's experts are used to assist in disproving pain and suffering, emotional distress, or the loss of some other body parts, or body functions.
  • Manufacturing Expert - Manufacturing experts are often called to testify about industry standards, or defects in parts made to manufacture cars or motorcycles, for example. They can make a causal connection between a manufacturer's failure to warn about a potential problem with a product. Or, for example, they may testify as to how a defective or poorly designed automotive part or accessory such as an airbag, for example, failed, causing a terrible mishap.
  • Economist - A certified economist may work with a CPA and other financial experts to tell the jury how the injuries suffered in the accident will impact debt and finances over the plaintiff's lifetime. Lifecare planners will use information obtained from these experts to formulate an overall lifecare plan. This plan lays out lifetime costs to pay past, present, and future medical expenses. There may be treatment needed for surgeries and lost earnings since the plaintiff's newfound disabilities.
  • Vocational Rehabilitation Specialists - A professional rehab expert opines typically as to the type of work someone was able to do before and after a terrible mishap. Their opinions will be based upon evidence about physical and mental hindrances brought about as a result of the accident.   Because of this, the plaintiff may not be able to work again, or maybe will need job re-training. These experts can be crucial in helping to prove the damages elements of the plaintiff's lifetime diminished earning capacity and potential costs of job re-training.
  • Life Care Planners - A life care planner plugs in the data provided by many other experts and acts as a liaison to come up with a dollar amount and plan for the plaintiff's long term care and provisioning. These experts will often testify about the extent and severity of the plaintiff's disability, as well as their actuarial life expectancy and reduced quality of life due to the wreck. (Learn more about Life Care Planners here).

Experts, no matter what type, will put forward their findings of the case to find or reject the relation between the occurrence of the event and the damages and harm caused in that event. After all, this remains the plaintiff's burden alone. Without the help of experts, it can be hard, if not impossible, for either side to establish a defense or a prosecution.

Below are the most common types of experts used by both sides in courts.

  • What are Medical Experts And Examiners?

Bodily injuries are the most critical aspects in deciding the compensation received in your injury case. The medical costs to fix the damages can be extremely high. But this depends on the severity of the injuries. So it wouldn't be wrong to say that most of the injury case revolves around bodily harm. And this comes with the costs to treat the physical harm.

In an injury case, the defendant will be most adamant at trying to prove they weren't the result of the mishap. The defense will claim fraud, saying these were pre-existing injuries or exaggerated. Also, the at-fault party might try to prove that the injuries were caused later. In other words, they will opine the injuries were not from the event in which the defendant was involved.

  • The defense will argue that money spent or estimated to be for treatment is more than needed.

That’s where the medical examiner comes in.

  • The defense medical examiner is called an "independent medical examiner." But in such a case, we could quickly call it a misnomer. After all, this examiner is bought and paid for by the defendant.

What is the Defense Medical Examination?

The process goes like this. The defendant makes a demand to have the plaintiff medically examined. The examiner would then form an opinion on behalf of the defendant who is paying him. They do so by saying that the harm suffered by the plaintiff happened either from a different source or event. But the expert may say the money spent on the treatment is unnecessarily costly.

Some of the harm might even get blamed on the age of the driver. This expert wouldn't pay much attention to the injuries. He'd instead pass his "hired gun" opinion within less than half an hour of meeting with and examining the plaintiff. Most plaintiff's lawyers and victims consider these so-called "experts" to be biased against the injury victims.

Why Are Biomechanical Engineers And Reconstructionists So Important?

The defending party in the case also hires engineers and reconstructionists. The purpose of the defense hiring these experts is to prove the plaintiff is lying, or the plaintiff simply "exaggerated." The engineer will examine the speeds of the car at the time of the collision, for example. Then say that the mishap couldn't have the severity enough to cause the harm associated with the event by the plaintiff.

Calculations of changes in velocity can prove the impact was less severe than stated. There's a mark set for human beings as to how severe of an effect they can take without suffering any serious harm. Some results cause no injuries at all, according to them.

But this mark has become set after many tests. According to this standard target, a human body will not sustain any severe damages or will tolerate an impact at a speed of 5mph.

How Does Your Lawyer Overcome the Biased Defense "Expert?"

The defendant’s expert will try to prove that the severity of the impact in your case was less than it was. However, this is not where it all ends. Now your lawyer takes care of it from here. Your legal counsel will find the flaws that exist in this method of calculating the change in velocity.

The data and evidence used to collect information and reach these results are often weak, unreliable, or easily deniable. Defendant’s biomechanical expert often uses guesswork, and this weakens their testimony altogether.

More About Life Care Experts And Planners.

There are cases in which the results in catastrophic injuries to the victim. In this scenario, the victim might have to rely on permanent or long-term medical treatment and care. In this case, both sides bring in their own life care planner as an expert. Their job would is to prove that the costs of future care and medical treatment require a significant sum of money for life or not.

The life planner will use his/her knowledge to bring to place a dollar figure on your care for life. A number much smaller than the value demanded by the victim’s lawyer is what the defense attorney wants. So both sides bring in their experts to chip away at each other. Expertise and credibility persuade most jurors.

What Is Your Plan Of Action?

Experts can be extremely important in a personal injury case. Regardless of whether your case looks easy or difficult to prove, contact the right law firm to represent you in your injury case. Only an experienced lawyer can estimate and analyze your situation properly. A seasoned attorney will ensure that your compensation is received through an outside court settlement. But if the case enters the premises of the court, he will apply all his knowledge to get you the financial award you deserve. If you or your loved one has a personal injury case in Los Angeles, get in touch with Ehline Law Firm. A free evaluation done for your case is a phone call away.


Citations:

https://www.jurispro.com/category/personal-injury-s-30 Personal Injury Expert Witnesses:: JurisPro:: Accident Reconstruction & Safety Experts & Consultants -Personal Injury Expert Witnesses

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vehicular_accident_reconstruction Wikipedia--Vehicular accident reconstruction