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Building a strong personal injury claim is rarely simple or straightforward. Even in cases where liability is clear, accident victims must still gather proof of the injuries they sustained—and evidence of their full extent—in order to secure a fair settlement for the damages.
Although various parties like police officers, civil engineers, and accident reconstruction experts can help prove fault following a motor vehicle collision, only a medical expert witness can prove damages. In some cases, testimony from the treating physician is enough evidence to result in fair compensation.
When the injuries are severe and a lot more money is at stake, though, the insurance company may require testimony from an unbiased specialist. Even though such witnesses do not treat the victim directly, they can provide their professional opinion regarding the extent of the damages after reviewing the patient’s medical records.
Read on to learn when you might need a medical expert witness after a car accident:
1. When You Sustain a Traumatic Brain Injury
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, motor vehicle collisions are a leading cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). TBIs are incredibly complicated, and their symptoms—and any lasting repercussions—can vary immensely from patient to patient.
The most effective treatment modality for a TBI will depend on the severity of the injury. The Mayo Clinic reports that possible approaches include:
- Over-the-counter pain relievers;
- Anti-seizure medication;
- Occupational therapy;
- Speech and language therapy; and
- Physical therapy.
Collision cases involving TBIs may require a medical expert witness to speak on the severity of the injury, as well as on the kind of rehabilitation the patient will likely need in the months and years to come. Without such testimony, the accident victim may not receive sufficient compensation for the damages incurred.
2. When You Sustain a Spinal Cord Injury
When a spinal cord injury results in paralysis, the resulting costs can add up incredibly fast. Damages do not only include medical bills and rehabilitation fees but also lost wages and lost earning capacity.
According to the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, the estimated lifetime costs of living with high tetraplegia resulting from a spinal cord injury sustained at 25 years old amount to nearly $5 million. This figure only takes into account living expenses and medical bills and does not include indirect costs like loss of fringe benefits or productivity.
A medical expert witness can quantify the lifetime costs of a particular spinal cord injury after assessing its severity and the patient’s progress since the accident.
3. When You Sustain Any Kind of Injury with Long-Term Repercussions
Even if a catastrophic car accident does not cause a TBI or traumatic brain injury, it can still result in long-term damages for the victims. In general, cases that involve any kind of serious injury with lasting consequences may require a medical expert witness.
Regardless if this expert is the treating physician or some kind of specialist, he or she will explain the pathology of the injuries to the insurance adjuster, judge, or jury. After determining their full extent, the witness can speak on the kind of pain and suffering that is likely to accompany them, as well as any future medical treatments the patient will need. A medical expert witness can also provide a prognosis regarding the victim’s ability to return to the workforce.
In many cases, obtaining testimony from an expert is the only way for claimants to ensure they receive a settlement that is large enough to cover all of the damages they have incurred; however, finding a credible expert can be challenging. Fortunately, seasoned personal injury lawyers have access to such witnesses as part of their vast network of legal resources.