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Mar 7, 2016

The controversy over using expert witnesses in personal injury cases

A recent Law Times article discusses the recent decision of Bruff-Murphy v. Gunawardena, 2016 and issues that were raised in the case about civil jury trials and the role of expert witnesses. While this article discusses one particular case, this is unfortunately a common occurrence that personal injury lawyers face when fighting for the compensation that accident victims rightfully deserve.

The article explains the case of an accident victim whose fate was decided by a jury after the defense was allowed to use an expert witness. These witnesses are often called upon to assess victims for insurance companies or the defense. This particular psychiatrist claimed that the victim's pain was faked and shouldn't be believed, which led to the jury deciding on a very small amount of compensation - presumably because they weren't sure her injuries were real.

As the author says, “Yes, this is but a single case of injustice. But we are left to speculate on how many deserving plaintiffs have entered into low settlements or suffered low awards due to the evidence of experts of the ilk trotted out by the defence in this case.  Where do we go from here?” The author goes on to suggest that we should push for changes so that civil trials are not decided by juries, and that partisan expert witnesses be disallowed.

We would also urge anyone who becomes an accident victim to take as many notes as possible and ask healthcare professionals to put their findings in writing at all times so these documents could be relied upon if necessary at a later time.


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