What Role Do Medical Experts Play in a Personal Injury Case?

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Partnering with high quality medical expert witnesses can be crucial to achieving a successful outcome in a personal injury case. Finding an expert witness with the precise experience and expertise required can provide valuable case support and may be critical to creating a favorable result.

When you hire a Duque Law personal injury attorney, we will very likely have your case evaluated by an expert medical witness. This is such an important part of the process since a medical expert’s job is to explain to the jury or judge how the injury has impacted you, as the plaintiff. They will also describe the long-term effects of your injuries and the types of therapies, treatments, and rehabilitation you will continue to need.

What is a Medical Expert in a Personal Injury Case?

This is usually a doctor, physical therapist, or specialist who may also be one of your treating physicians. They will review medical records and may examine you to provide an opinion about how your injuries have impacted you. They may also discuss whether you will need treatment in the future and rehabilitation.

How are Medical Experts Selected for a Personal Injury Case?

Typically, these experts are chosen based on a few factors:

  • Their specific area of medical expertise
  • Their experience in the specific medical field related to the plaintiff’s injuries
  • Their experience testifying before the court

The Role of Medical Experts in Personal Injury Cases

As personal injury attorneys, we consult with medical associations and our own professional networks to find credentialed, experienced medical experts. We only want to hire the best experts who can effectively examine the evidence and explain it to the court.

  • Evaluating the Plaintiff’s Injuries

Medical experts play a vital role in evaluating the plaintiff’s injuries. They can review medical records, conduct physical examinations, and perform diagnostic tests to determine the extent of the injuries sustained. This information is then used to establish the plaintiff’s damages, such as medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.


  • Providing a Diagnosis

An expert medical witness’s first task is to establish the relevant standard of care. Only a medical expert can testify about the diagnostic and treatment process that a clinician should follow for a certain type of patient, illness, or clinical situation.


  • Assessing the Impact of the Injuries on the Plaintiff’s Life

Present and future “pain and suffering” are well-recognized elements of damages in personal injury actions.’ Medical science in its present state of development offers considerable aid in determining the existence of pain resulting from personal injury and in predicting probabilities of future pain. Unfortunately, it is less helpful in establishing the severity of pain and suffering with much precision.

Medical experts can also assess the impact of the injuries sustained by the plaintiff on their life. This can include evaluating the extent of physical limitations, determining the need for ongoing medical treatment, and assessing the impact of the injury on the plaintiff’s ability to work and enjoy life. This information is used to determine the amount of compensation the plaintiff is entitled to for their pain and suffering and lost quality of life.


  • Providing Expert Testimony

In personal injury and medical malpractice cases, medical experts typically are called upon to provide testimony on a range of issues directly related to their professional experience. These issues can include standards of care, the cause of injuries and long-term impacts of medical conditions.

Although medical expert witnesses are most closely associated with testimony from the stand, a high-quality expert provides value at every stage of litigation. The findings of a medical expert witness, for example, can aid attorneys in evaluating the merits of a case before proceeding to file a lawsuit. Expert analysis and testimony are also essential as your case progresses to discovery and, ultimately, trial.


  • Assisting in Settlement Negotiations

Medical experts can also assist in settlement negotiations. They can provide a professional opinion on the plaintiff’s injuries and the impact they will have on their life. This information is used to determine a fair settlement amount for the plaintiff. Medical experts can also provide advice on the need for ongoing medical treatment and the estimated cost of that treatment.


How Medical Evidence is Used

Medical testimony assists the court in determining liability and the appropriate compensation for the plaintiff.


  • Causation

Medical evidence may be necessary to demonstrate that a plaintiff’s injuries were caused by a particular accident. This is called causation, and depending on the circumstances, it can be more obvious in some cases than in others.

When evaluating the claim, insurance company adjusters and lawyers will likely claim that all of the present injuries were caused by the old accidents, thereby hoping to avoid paying full compensation to this gentleman in his current case. It will be up to the plaintiff to obtain medical evidence proving the extent to which the current car accident caused his back injuries.


  • Damages

Medical evidence is crucial for helping a plaintiff and his or her attorney prove the extent of the injuries incurred and the suffering the person has endured or will endure in the future.


Paying for Medical Expert Testimony

Medical experts are typically paid for the time they dedicate to the case. They are not paid to give specific testimony or to answer questions in any predetermined way.

Ultimately, it is the injured person who pays for the witnesses’ time. However, this almost always comes out of the settlement or court award, rather than out of your pocket. In most situations, your lawyer will pay the fees up front, and then when you get a settlement, the witness fees will be deducted (along with the attorney’s fees).


Proving the Credibility of an Expert Witness

Expert witness credibility can make or break legal cases. Your expert witness must be credible in the eyes of two audiences: the judge and the jury. Lawsuits frequently depend on how juries interpret expert witness technical or industry standards testimony. A judge’s perception of expert witnesses and their testimony is also extremely critical.

Factors that aid credibility include a natural manner, sincerity, confidence, clarity and composure. Being argumentative, defensive, smug, flamboyant, or nervous undermines credibility.

As an expert witness, a physician has a clear ethical responsibility to be objective, truthful, and impartial when evaluating a case on the basis of generally accepted standards of practice. It is unethical for experts to overstate their opinions or credentials, to misrepresent an unfortunate occurrence as malpractice, to offer false testimony, or to testify on any sort of contingency basic.

Once credibility is determined, the medical expert needs to demonstrate their knowledge of the medical issues involved in the personal injury case, likely by explaining the standard of care for the medical condition or outlining the potential causes and consequences of the injury. The jury can then understand the complexity of the medical issues involved, as relates to your client, and make an informed decision based on the evidence presented.

To ensure that the jury fully understands the injuries, top experts will simplify medical terminology and concepts, provide examples and analogies to help the jury relate to the medical issues, showcase visual aids to illustrate their points, or explain the significance of the evidence presented. By doing so, the jury can more clearly understand the injuries and make an informed decision based on the evidence presented.


Should You Speak with an Attorney?

Our legal team at Duque Law Group is comprised of award-winning and nationally recognized trial lawyers who collaborate with nurses, doctors and medical experts regularly. Though we understand the nature of injuries, we are not physicians, and always encourage victims to seek treatment as soon after an accident as possible, and to follow up and heed their doctors’ advice.

Call us now on 1-877-241-9554 to learn more about your options. A free consultation is just a phone call away.


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