The Importance of Expert Witnesses in Brain Injury CasesJuly 24th, 2017
Any type of lawsuit that involves complex issues of liability, proof, evidence, and damages will typically require expert testimony. Similarly, in a brain injury case, it is vital that each of the injury victim’s experts act in concert to satisfy the elements of liability, causation, and damages for the plaintiff to prevail and collect the compensation appropriate for this kind of injury.
A brain injury case may involve questions of negligence by a health care provider, a designer or manufacturer of a product or drug, or of someone who caused an accident resulting in injury. Other issues involve the victim’s cognitive capacity, ability to work and at what type of job; the medical expenses needed to treat and meet the victim’s needs; and any psychological harm. To meet the plaintiff’s burden of proof on all of these issues, expert testimony is normally required.
Once a brain injury claim is made, the victim’s attorney needs to assemble a cast of expert medical witnesses. If a vehicle accident caused the injury, an accident reconstructionist may be needed to provide expertise on speed, distances, reaction time, and other human factors that satisfy the elements of negligent conduct. If there was a medical error, a medical witness must opine that the practitioner’s conduct fell below the applicable standard of care and resulted in the particular injury.
For the nature and extent of the injury, a neurologist or neuropsychologist can offer testimony about the victim’s cognitive impairment, give a diagnosis of the injury and testify about treatment. If the victim displays changes in behavior, the expert can explain the injury that forms the basis for that behavior. For emotional damages, a psychologist can testify on whether the victim is suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, if applicable, or how the victim is adapting to a dramatically changed lifestyle. The psychologist and neurologist need to be on the same page when discussing how the nature and extent of the impairment has affected the plaintiff emotionally in coping with the injury and its consequences.
This is especially important since testimony about the necessity and cost of future treatment, either medical or for vocational or occupational training, depends on the severity of the injury. For example, if a neurologist opines that the victim has the cognitive capacity to do certain things, the plaintiff’s vocational expert must offer test or clinical findings that are consistent with the neurologist’s opinion.
Communication among all experts in a brain injury case is essential to present a consistent and viable claim or lawsuit that meets all the elements needed to prove the injury case. Before the trier of fact can award the appropriate damages based on the severity of the injury, the necessity and reasonableness of past and future damages, and the changes to the victim’s life, the plaintiff’s experts must present a logical and unvarying theme and diagnoses.
Considering the important role expert witnesses play in the assembly of an effective brain injury case, hiring an experienced brain injury lawyer who has assembled these teams time and time again is crucial to your settlement or verdict.