A medical expert witness is a licensed medical practitioner, such as a doctor, nurse, or surgeon, whose education, skills, and experience qualify them to testify about particular aspects of a plaintiff’s health, injury, and prognosis.
Expert witnesses are integral to modern personal injury litigation, used by both the defendant and the plaintiff to bolster their case. Their testimony draws a clear line of causality between the accident to the injury and the resulting loss for the victim.
If you or a loved one are involved in a brain injury suit, your San Luis Obispo brain injury lawyer will likely use a brain injury expert witness at both the discovery and trial stages of your case.
What is the role of a medical expert in court?
Using medical experts in personal injury litigation was established in Frye vs. United States in 1923. Around the turn of the twentieth century, many American justices, including Justice Learned Hand, noted that the learned opinions of a medical expert were important in dispensing justice.
Medical expert witnesses are held to a strict code of ethics when testifying in legal matters. They are expected to take numerous measures to provide a thorough, unbiased, and objective explanation of medical facts.
Usually, they attest to:
- The direct cause of the injury
- The long-term impact of the resulting damage
- Standard of care for the victim
Here are some of the ways that your lawyer will use medical expert testimony to support your case.
Establish the causation of the plaintiff’s injury
All personal injury cases rely on proving negligence, or that the defendant caused or created conditions for a brain injury to happen. The brain injury expert witness explains to the jury how the plaintiff’s injury occurred and which part of the brain was damaged.
First, the expert identifies how the accident caused the injury. Next, they describe how the victim is harmed, determined by the expert’s examination of the individual.
Attest to the severity of the plaintiff’s injury
Brain injury expert witnesses establish the Maximum Medical Improvement of brain injury victims or how likely they are to fully recover. Brain injury recovery is usually harder to predict than other types of injuries. Two people could receive similar damage; one may fully recover their facilities while the other may have permanent brain damage.
The more serious the brain injury, the more intensive treatment is required. The recommendations of an expert help your brain injury lawyer build their case for the amount of compensation they seek.
Predict the long-term impact of the injury on the victim’s life
We noted earlier that some brain injury victims may be unable to care for themselves or are rendered permanently brain damaged. Some people may need permanent care in a nursing home as they cannot live independently.
The brain injury’s impact extends beyond the victim. Family members may be reeling from losing their loved one – even if the victim lives, the personality changes and brain damage may make them no longer the person they were before the accident. Families who were dependent on the victim for care or monetary support are now in serious financial straits.
Brain injury expert witness testimony clarifies that the plaintiff can no longer contribute financially and requires costly care.
When expert testimony is allowed
Medical experts may be used in the discovery, or fact-gathering phase of your trial and during the trial itself, testifying on the stand. Your lawyer uses these assessments of the medical expert to value your economic damages – the cost of your medical care and how much treatment you’ll need in the future for your brain injury.
For example, you may need speech or occupational therapy to help you regain your abilities. Victims with moderate to severe brain injury may be unable to care for themselves and require accommodation in a memory care facility or from a dedicated in-home caregiver.
Medical experts help properly value the plaintiff’s claim
The value of your medical expert’s testimony usually lies in their qualifications and whether they’re actively practicing medicine. The opinion of Board-Certified medical experts who still see patients often carries more weight than a professional expert witness or someone whose job is simply to travel around and testify in brain injury cases.
Practicing medical experts have first-hand knowledge of the cost of care for brain injuries. They may say, “This is what my hospital charges for this level of care,” or “This is how much a long-term stay in a nursing home costs.”
Do you need help after a traumatic brain injury?
Have you or a loved one suffered a brain injury after an accident? If you were harmed by someone else’s negligence, the brain injury lawyers at Ernst Law Group can help you collect the compensation you deserve to pay for your treatment and specialty care. Contact us today at (805) 541-0300 for a free consultation.