Monday, February 9, 2015

What Types of Experts May Be Used In My Personal Injury Case?

If your personal injury lawsuit heads to trial, often times certain experts will be retained in order to explain our case to the jury. Conversely, the defense will undoubtedly hire their own set of experts to offer countervailing evidence in attempts to dissuade the jury from compensating you for your injuries. So what types of experts are generally used in case where someone is injured as the result of an automobile collision?

Automobile Crash Reconstructionist & Biomechanical Engineers

An automobile crash reconstructionist or biomechanical engineer is often retained by the defense in a low to moderate impact collision case to testify that the force of the impact simply could not have caused the injuries that the plaintiff has sustained. How is this done? Essentially, the expert will attempt to estimate the velocity (speed) of the collision (referred to as “delta V” or “change in velocity”). This calculation is done by trying to quantify the velocity of the vehicle that causes the crash (often referred to as the missile vehicle) and subtracting from that number the velocity of the vehicle that sustains the impact (often called the target vehicle).

So how is the Delta V used in attempts to defeat your claim? The expert will compare the Delta V calculated in your case with different human subject crash tests that are available. Most of these tests have concluded that the threshold for human tolerance is approximately 5 MPH. If the Delta V in your case is less than that, the insurance company will argue that you simply could not have been injured in such a collision.

How is this testimony countered? The key to undermining this type of testimony is to expose the many flaws in the methodology followed to arrive at the conclusion. This starts with looking at how the expert went about determining the velocity of the vehicles involved in the crash in the first instance. Often times this is formulated by guessing and there is no exact means to calculate it. Many times the expert does not physically inspect the vehicles, but relies only on photographs. Even then, only photographs of one vehicle may be available for review. Simply stated, exposing the guesswork conducted by these so called experts is key to undermining and discrediting their testimony.

The Defense Medical Examiner

If you have ever heard of the term “Independent Medical Examiner,” you should note that when used in the context of litigation it is often a misnomer. This is because when a plaintiff is requested to undergo an evaluation by a doctor, it is usually at the request of the defense. In Florida, the defendant is allowed to compel the plaintiff in a personal injury action to undergo what is referred to as a “CME” a “Compulsory Medical Examination,” subject to some restrictions. In the context of a lawsuit brought against your own UM (uninsured/underinsured motorist) carrier, this type of examination is generally included in the terms of your policy and is a prerequisite to recovering benefits.

When retained by the defense, the medical examiner will undoubtedly be hired to provide an opinion that generally follows the same basic format in each case. Especially in low impact cases, the Defense Medical Examiner (DME) will opine that the force of the impact could not have caused the injuries sustained by the plaintiff; that any injuries the plaintiff did sustain should have resolved after 6 – 12 weeks and that any treatment rendered after that time period was unnecessary and unrelated to the crash. Further, the DME will most likely opine that the symptoms that the plaintiff was suffering from following the crash were actually related to prior injuries and—especially in the case of an injury to the spine—were the result of the normal degenerative aging process.

Of course, the DME’s opinions will be in direct contravention with not only the plaintiff’s experts but the plaintiff’s treating physicians as well. Often times the DME will have only conducted a cursory review of the plaintiff’s prior medical records and spent approximately 15-20 minutes speaking to and evaluating the plaintiff.

Life Care Planners

When someone has suffered a catastrophic injury, it is critical that the jury understand the cost of future care and treatment that the plaintiff will require moving forward. To do this, an expert life care planner is often used. The life care planner will be able to testify what the needs of the plaintiff are—such as the projected cost of replacing a wheelchair, medications and other medical necessities as well as the annual cost of medical treatment. A life care planner will be able to organize and quantify the costs associated with each of these in a way that will assist the jury in calculating and providing the plaintiff with the future economic damages required to compensate him or her for her injuries. The defense will attempt to poke holes in the plaintiff’s life care plan by rebutting various claims and attempting to identify areas where they can argue the plaintiff is “overreaching.”

Contact Dolman Law Group

If your case is headed to trial, experts are often required to present the best evidence to support your claims. Litigation and bringing a case to trial can become costly; however, these costs are necessary in order to obtain the most successful outcome at trial and levcel the playing field with the insurance companies. The attorneys at Dolman Law Group understand the significance of retaining and rebutting expert testimony both before and during trial. If you’ve been injured as the result of someone else’s negligence, call 727-451-6900 for more information on how to protect your rights and become compensated for your injuries.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765

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