Workers’ compensation claims can be difficult to prove, especially when the injuries are not always obvious, and the causation for them are not clear either. Many times, individuals pursuing a workers’ compensation case has no choice but to employ an expert witness to help back up their claims.
This brings the question: when should an injured employee consider hiring an expert witness to assist with his or her compensation claim? We have asked attorney, Alaina Sullivan, and here is what she had to say:
What Is an Expert Witness?
An expert witness is an individual who has significant training and scientific, technical or specialized knowledge in a certain area or subject who can help those who do not have this knowledge understand it better to make an educated decision in a legal matter.
Expert witnesses are often involved in legal matters where significant injury or damages are involved or when neither party wants to admit to any wrongdoing. Expert witnesses are often qualified specifically through the legal system because of their training, work experience, board certification or any other credentials.
Expert Medical Testimony in Workers’ Compensation
Many times, the outcome of a workers’ compensation case may depend on expert medical testimony. Some injuries are not so clear-cut and do not manifest immediately, such as head injuries, or some are developed over time from repeated movements or heavy lifting.
An employer may dispute the fact that an employee has the injury, claiming that the employee did not receive this injury at work or that it was from a pre-existing medical condition.
If the initial claim is denied for this reason and a hearing follows, it may be necessary to not only get the medical records for the injured employee, but it may also be necessary to have an expert witness review these records and give his or her expert opinion on the injury, its severity, how it occurred and what treatment will be needed for the employee to get to maximum medical improvement.
The employer, depending on how hard he or she is fighting the claim, may bring his or her own expert witness to dispute the testimony, although this type of expert will be normally be brought in if causation of the injury is in question.
Expert Witness Regarding Causation of Injury
One important fact regarding workers’ compensation is the injury must be work-related or caused from an accident or incident that occurred on-the job. Existing conditions can sometimes be covered if it can be shown that the conditions were made worse by workplace events or conditions, as well.
Occasionally, a workers’ compensation case will call for a scientific expert who can attest to conditions at the workplace that could have either caused the injury, led to some type of chronic condition or disease, or aggravated a preexisting condition.
Expert witnesses are often called in cases involving asbestos if it is believed that work conditions that involved these chemicals caused the employee’s medical condition to worsen.
Similarly, an expert can talk about how repetitive motions can lead to certain injuries, especially if the repetitive motions were being performed by the employee in the case, and he or she was injured as a result.
The employee may need this evidence to help prove the case that the injury actually occurred at work or was caused from something related to work, especially if the initial claim has resulted in a denial based on this reason.
When it comes to lining up expert witnesses, a workers’ compensation attorney can be of assistance. Expert witnesses normally require some type of subpoena to be cleared to testify in a legal case.
If a workers’ compensation case requires assistance of an expert witness, it is often wise to have an attorney do this so that everything is done properly, and no surprises come up.
The last thing the employee needs is for there to be a problem with the subpoena or documents requested only to discover this problem at the last possible minute.
Since attorney’s fees are often part of a workers’ compensation settlement award, the thought of legal fees should not deter the employee from hiring counsel. It will pay off greatly in the end, especially if an expert is needed in the case.
Contact an Attorney Today
If you have been injured at work and are pursuing workers’ compensation and have questions regarding whether an expert witness is needed for your case, a workers’ compensation attorney can help review your case and discuss your options.
An attorney can listen to the facts of the case and can best advise you on how to proceed. Contact an attorney experienced in workers’ compensation law to schedule a consultation today.