News From the Front: Historians and Experts
All personal injury cases benefit from good historians and good experts. Sooner or later in the life of a case, a medical expert is going to be needed to testify on behalf of the injured individual as either the treating physician or as a medical expert retained to offer his or her medical opinion as to the gravity (or lack thereof if you are defending such a suit) of the injuries sustained by the client. From the perspective of the injured individual, as far as medical testimony goes, it is always best to bring in the treating physician(s) to testify at trial. The treating physician has seen the patient the most, and in the appropriate case, actually has looked into the operative site and is best situated to explain what he or she found during surgery and what the progress over time of the patient has shown. The physician will be essential at trial to determine whether the accident at issue was a substantial factor in causing the need for the surgery and whether, depending on the injury involved, the injury that gave rise to the need for the operation thereafter resulted in a permanent loss or an injury that has fully resolved.
But medical experts, while the most obvious, are far from the only types of experts that regularly testify at trial. Engineering experts may opine on the code compliance of an escalator or an elevator in an accident involving one or the other. Engineers testify about almost anything involving technical compliance, the height of the curb, the rise between sections of sidewalk, whether the train tracks are worn to a dangerous level or the brakes on the train itself too old to be safe, or if the metal in the bicycle frame was negligently weakened by some process in the manufacturing and/or design that caused it to break apart under the rider in normal riding conditions and for no apparent reason. The lists is endless. Economist may be called to testify on the future economic impact of a person's loss of ability to work or a weatherman on the past climate conditions at the place and time of an accident involving ice or snow. Life planners may be employed to show what will be involved in providing the severely injured individual with a modicum of dignity and function following a catastrophic injury. From a defense perspective, surveillance experts may be called in to testify as to video they have taken of the claimant doing back flips when a severe back injury has been alleged to establish that the person is a faker and when and where the video was acquired: was the video three years before the accident or was it taken last week?
I write about experts to highlight the complexity of even the simplest of personal injury claims and the importance of historians and experts. There are numerous facts and details that are crucial to the successful prosecution of a personal injury lawsuit. Chief among them is how did the person actually get hurt; was their shoulder jammed into the car door when they were T-bone on the driver's side in an auto accident or was it when they landed on their shoulder on a slick, slippery floor at the hotel? It is critically important that the injured individual keep a precise record of what happened, who and where they went for treatment, what type of provider they saw and how often they went for treatment and to be able thereafter to give the attorney an accurate history of the accident itself and the medical care and procedures they have had to endure following an accident where they were injured. A good historian is a godsend to the personal injury lawyer who seeks to capture every detail of the loss itself so that the appropriate expert(s) can be found to match the negligence alleged and the type of medicine involved after the accident to maximize the recovery for the person who has been hurt and to bring about full justice in the claim.