Winning a jury trial in a personal injury or wrongful death case requires convincing jurors that the person or company named as the defendant acted negligently or recklessly and that the documented behavior directly harmed the plaintiff. Below, we discuss some of the techniques we use to do that.
- How a Virginia Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Attorney Presents Evidence to Jurors
- Presenting Medical Evidence to a Jury During a Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Trial
- What Is the Role of a Medical Expert During a Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Trial?
While practicing primarily in Virginia and North Carolina, we rely heavily on medical evidence to show how badly our client suffered in and after a vehicle crash, slip and fall, medical error or use of a dangerous and defective product. So, in addition to things like police reports, lab analyses and expert testimony, we present some or all of the following types of evidence to support our client’s claims for compensation and monetary damages for things like pain and suffering.
We take account of juror’s preference for only pertinent information by pairing brief sections of recorded pretrial testimony with displays of physical evidence, diagnostic images, and in-person testimony from the witness stand. We will sometimes also ask an expert or our client to read passages of their transcribed deposition. This catches jurors’ attention and allows us to ask questions to clarify points and expand on points that could be missed.
A Summary of Care Exhibit
We prepare a timeline of medical care and therapeutic interventions that runs from the moment our client suffered their injuries until the date when they can expect to stop receiving medical care for their injuries. The timeline for a personal injury client almost always extends past the day of trial.
X-Rays, MRIs, CAT Scans and Other Diagnostics Images
We use a device we describe as a “view box” to share diagnostic images during depositions and at trial. The view box makes an image clearly visible to a group of people, and it has a slideshow function. For especially important images, we print oversized posters with labels so we can focus jurors’ attention on key evidence.
Client’s Job Duties
We produce and distribute a typed list by referring to the injured victim’s official job description, as provided by their employer, and discussions with the client. It almost always turns out that our client does much more than what they get paid for. And also that their injuries make it harder to carry out these expected but unassigned duties.
Work Restriction Evaluation Forms
These are summaries of doctors’ opinions regarding physical limitations imposed by injuries. For instance, a car crash victim may be cleared to return to work after spending six weeks recovering, but their doctor will restrict them to lifting no more than 10 pounds and walking less than an hour a day. A work restriction evaluation form captures this information in a format that jurors can easily read and understand.
We tend to use a standard form issued by the U.S. Department of Labor. It records restrictions on lifting, pushing/pulling, kneeling, stooping and other activities common to all types of work. The greater the number of restrictions, and the tighter the restrictions, the stronger the case is for claiming damages for disability, loss of wages and loss of future earnings.
The AMA’s Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment
Physicians, therapists and programs like Social Security and workers’ compensation consult this guide when they rate a person’s disability on a scale from zero percent (no disability at all) to 100 percent (total disability with no chance of improvement). We work with our own medical experts to apply the guidelines while determining what to claim for a permanent disability, lost wages and loss of future earnings.
We also consult the guidelines to ensure a defendant’s legal team is applying them honestly, consistently and appropriately. When an obvious deviation occurs, we point this out to jurors, which helps our client seek a higher award.
The American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-5
Many people call the fifth, and most current, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders the Bible of psychology. Religious allusions aside, no source proves more valuable for evaluating the severity of psychological trauma and emotional distress inflicted by a personal injury or wrongful death. Both we and the defense are practically required to cite DSM-5 criteria while presenting claims about problems like post-traumatic stress disorder and memory impairment.