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Three (3) Key Witnesses for Your Limited Tort Trial

If the jury likes your client, they will award her money. This is a principle that the plaintiffs’ bar has consistently agreed upon based on the collective experience in trying personal injury cases. The bedrock of any auto injury case is, and has always been, the plaintiff. She must present well and appeal to the jury if she has any hope of getting a favorable verdict. She’s the star of the show. And oftentimes, she can carry the day on her own.

However, the limited tort trial is more complex. Having the added obstacle of proving a serious impairment makes it that much more difficult for the plaintiff to go at it alone. The supporting cast of witnesses is arguably more important than the plaintiff’s testimony. A jury isn’t going to be persuaded by a one-man show. They want and need more in terms of damages and limitations of the plaintiff. In the hundreds of limited tort trials that my firm has both won and lost, our jurors have consistently reported that these three (3) witnesses were central to their ultimate decision.

1. “Damages” Witnesses

Any injury case, limited tort or otherwise, comes down to the plaintiff - the victim. The jury has to believe that your client’s pain, suffering, embarrassment and humiliation warrant financial compensation. So, the story is that of your client. But it’s not just the story her life, it’s the story of how her injuries impacted her friends’ and family’s lives and her relationships with them.

Friends and family are key supporting roles, especially in the limited tort context. It is imperative that they are in the Courtroom to corroborate and bolster your client’s story. Testimony from these types of “damages” witnesses tells yet another, and oftentimes clearer tale of your client’s life and the devastating effects of her injuries. They are essential characters in your client’s story and an essential part of your case. Even if a juror cannot sympathize with your client, she may be able to connect with a friend or family member. Failing to give a juror this potential connection is a missed opportunity for success at trial.

2. The “Treating” Doctor

In every case, the insurance company will simply bring in a “hired gun” expert doctor who only examined the plaintiff one time for twenty (20) minutes (or sometimes less than 5 minutes). He is there to testify about legal issues and knows your client only as the plaintiff, not the patient.

Be better than the insurance company. Bring in your client’s treating doctor. He is the one person that may just know your client best, inside and out. Unlike the “hired guns”, the treating doctor has an intimate relationship with the plaintiff. He saw her continuously, sometimes three (3) or more times per week for six (6) months or more. He spoke with her daily about her pain and the effects on her life. In many cases, the treating doctor has known your client for years and can tell her medical story much better than she can.

Just like her friends and family, your client’s treating doctor plays a critical supporting role in her story. Even if you don’t think the treating doctor is a litigation savvy witness, he can still testify as a fact witness and tell the jury about your client as a patient and a victim, not just a litigant. You can always hire a separate litigation expert that can testify as to causation and prognosis. The treating doctor however, is there for the fact-finders, giving them the doctor-patient story, not the doctor-plaintiff story.

3. The Economic Expert

An economist or future medical expert is one of the most over-looked expert witnesses among us plaintiff’s lawyers. But, having an expert tell the jury, with precise calculations, future damages or future medical costs for your client could be the difference between a big verdict and the insurance company getting off scot-free. In conjunction with a vocational or medical expert, an economic expert – either in the form of a vocational economist or medical billing expert – can present to the jury hard wage loss numbers or medical costs. This can at the very least compel an award for those future economic damages. An economic expert can single-handedly change the way your jury thinks.

When a jury is struggling with the idea of awarding your client non-economic damages, boardable numbers will almost always drive a verdict in the plaintiff’s favor. Whether in terms of future potential medical bills or lost earning capacity, jurors have an easier time sinking their teeth into hard numbers.

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