The Role of Medical Experts in Car Accident Cases

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When car accident injuries are substantial, it may be necessary to retain a medical expert to testify about the nature of the injuries, causation, and damages. The role of medical experts in car accident cases can be huge. In some cases, a medical expert can substantially affect whether you get damages and the amount that you are awarded. At Sharifi Firm, PLC, our Los Angeles car accident lawyers can hire credible and knowledgeable medical experts for cases that warrant the use of them.

The Role of Medical Experts in Car Accident Cases

An expert witness is someone who possesses specialized experience, training, skill, or knowledge related to your lawsuit and who will testify in a deposition or in court so that the jury or judge can understand some area not within common knowledge and thereby reach a fair verdict. The most common type of expert witness in personal injury cases is a medical expert who can testify about what the injuries are.

Usually, just telling the jury what the injury is will not be enough for the jury to figure out the treatment that is reasonably necessary or what to award for damages. A medical expert can testify, for example, about whether revision surgery would be appropriate for serious scarring that results from fourth-degree burns. The medical expert can also testify as to the extent of pain associated with a complex fracture. A medical expert could testify about whether it is likely that someone who suffered spinal cord damage will ever walk again.

When a catastrophically injured plaintiff may be injured for life, the medical expert can testify about the health care and rehabilitation that may be necessary in the future so that a complete picture of future damages is gathered by the jury.

Under Evidence Code section 720, a witness' special training, education, experience, skill, or knowledge must be shown before they can testify. It can be shown by any admissible evidence, including the witness’ own testimony. It is important in many cases to retain a medical expert who not only looks good on paper but also can testify about complicated matters in a way that the jury can understand.

Evidence Code section 800 provides that anyone not testifying as an expert is restricted to testifying about opinions that are rationally based on their perception of what happened. Expert witnesses are allowed to testify about their opinion of what happened. Sometimes, however, there are expert percipient witnesses (also called non-retained) who can provide testimony that exceeds their observation of what has happened.

In some cases, your treating physician can serve as an expert percipient witness. When a doctor gets personal knowledge of the relevant information independently of litigation, they can testify regarding opinions that are formed from the independently acquired facts or based on their training, skill, or experience. This may include testifying about what likely caused your injuries and the standard of care if those issues are inherent in their work. However, it may still be necessary to retain an expert because the jury may assume that an expert percipient witness is biased toward you, due to your pre-existing relationship or the possibility that the percipient witness will be paid out of the damages that are awarded. Experts who have no stake in how a trial turns out tend to be more credible, particularly in situations in which the defense strongly contests elements of damages.

Both parties may try to file motions in limine before a trial begins to exclude the testimony of opposing expert witnesses. This is why it is important to work with a personal injury attorney who has a good reputation and knows which experts likely will be credible on which issues. Sometimes a motion in limine is based on the idea that the other side did not properly designate the expert earlier in the lawsuit. Sometimes an expert who is not sufficiently designated by the other side — meaning that the other side did not give adequate information about the expert — can be excluded. If an expert tries to testify about some aspect of damages that was not disclosed before trial, that testimony also may be subject to exclusion.

Discuss Your Car Accident Case with a Los Angeles Lawyer

The role of medical experts in car accident cases can be significant for Southern California victims. At Sharifi Firm, PLC, our experienced motor vehicle collision attorneys may be able to help you recover compensation from the parties responsible for your injuries. Contact us online or call us at 1-866-422-7222 for a free appointment with a Los Angeles attorney. We also represent people in Temecula, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Glendale, Covina, and Riverside, among other cities.

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