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MEDICAL MALPRACTICE CASES – AGAINST THE ODDS

Roughly eighty percent of the Medical Malpractice cases tried are found in favor of the Defendant.  Considering that the odds of winning such a case are so low, it is a wonder that so many medical malpractice attorneys are denigrated by the term “ambulance chaser.”   As these cases are so difficult to win, it is not without great caution that attorneys take them to trial.  Not many are willing to play those odds unless they truly believe their client was substantially and directly harmed by his or her doctor.

According to Dr. Thomas Berger, a Cardio-Thoracic Surgeon who offers his expertise to attorneys, there are only two questions that are necessary to determine the outcome of a case:

  1. Did the doctor deviate from the standard of care (SOC)? While the definition of SOC varies from state to state, it is generally held to be the minimally acceptable quality of care that would be provided in a similar situation by a doctor with similar credentials.
  2. Was that deviation from the standard of care a proximate cause of harm to the patient and, if so, how?

Dr. Berger goes on to say that medical negligence must be shown to a “reasonable degree of medical certainty (RDMC)” that those medical errors actually harmed the patient.

Although this seems like cut and dry criteria to establish negligence, it is apparent from the win/lose record that it is not so easy to determine. While it is not so difficult to find a deviation from the standard of care, whether or not it is the direct cause of harm is the main obstacle.  Did the patient have a pre-existing condition?  Did the patient have a heart attack while going in for some other surgery?  Even if a surgeon did deviate from the standard of care and, indeed, cause some damage, if it was not the “direct” cause of the damage the case cannot be won.

It has been said that certain medical organizations prefer to keep the odds as they are – that Medical Malpractice attorneys and those that support them in litigation play David to these organizations’ Goliath.  Considering what they are up against, it would only be logical to take these attorneys out from under the ugly umbrella of “ambulance chaser.”

Read Dr. Thomas J. Berger’s Article Entitled, “Your Med-Mal Expert – An Advocate for the Truth.”

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CRISIS MANAGEMENT EXPERT WITNESSES & CONSULTANTS

In the wake of 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and other national crises like the Virginia Tech and Columbine shootings, it is imperative that we have a cache of individuals and companies at hand to respond to and manage such devastating events. Even more important is that these Experts and Consultants are available to prepare and train prior to any emergency.
Disaster Planning and Threat Analysis are not only critical to the safety of our nation’s institutions but anywhere that crowds tend to gather, such as Times Square in New York City or Union Square in San Francisco. Crisis Management Experts and Consultants use their experience and expertise to assess vulnerabilities and train for potential disasters at our schools, universities, high-risk workplace environments and hospitals. Keeping us safe is their number one priority.
Their areas of expertise can range from Disaster Planning, Hostage Negotiation, Suicide Attempts and Employment Screenings to Epidemiology, Food-Borne Vulnerabilities, Business Continuity and Terrorism. As with all those who protect the citizens of this country, Crisis Management Experts must be acknowledged for their contributions. It is with gratitude that we feature them here today.

Crisis Management Experts and Consultants

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CREDIT DAMAGE EXPERT WITNESSES – COMPENSABLE DAMAGES

It used to be that credit damage was not a compensable injury.  The victims of identity theft or fraud could not recover financially for any damage that was not a tangible good or service.  Thanks to the relatively new procedure of Credit Damage Measurement (CDM) and the expertise of many Credit Damage Experts, getting compensated for intangible losses is now possible.

In an article titled, “Credit Damage: Getting Compensated for Your Loss,” Credit Damage Expert, Georg Finder writes that, “ The impact of a bad credit rating is much more significant than most people think. Consider what poorly rated consumers face when they want to lease or buy vehicles, obtain credit cards, buy or lease or refinance their residence. In most cases, it’s an easy decision for the creditor: the credit application is simply turned down or the borrower is charged a much higher down payment – maybe thousands of dollars more with monthly payments that are typically several hundred dollars more.”

Tom Key, a civil litigator practicing in Tustin, CA is also mentioned in Finder’s article.  He explains that the CDM can help by measuring the actual out-of-pocket dollars reasonably expected from loss of creditworthiness, which includes higher down payments, higher points and costs on loans, higher interest rates, higher monthly payments, or outright denial of credit.  In addition, Keys says that the CDM method also calculates the rates, costs and other terms applicable to the resulting credit rating by lenders and projects the results over the relevant number of years for the types of loans the client is likely to seek.

For those who have suffered from identity theft or fraud that has left them with little or no credit, all is not lost.  With the help of a good Credit Damage Expert, civil litigator and the CDM procedure, recovery is not only possible, but likely.

Read Experts.com Member, Georg Finder’s, complete article.

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FORENSIC ACCOUNTING EXPERT WITNESSES & CONSULTANTS

In the fall-out from the past few years’ financial debacle, there has been no shortage of work for Forensic Accountants.  From the Bernie Madoff scheme to Lehman Brothers and all the financial scams in between, Forensic Accountants have been called upon to apply the concept of accounting to help lawyers adjudicate and resolve the resulting legal problems.

Image Courtesy of Trade & Global Market

The Accountant’s Handbook of Fraud & Commercial Crime offers a definition which has been informally accepted by many Forensic Accounting Experts.  The definition is as follows:

“Forensic and investigative accounting is the application of financial skills and an investigative mentality to unresolved issues, conducted within the context of the rules of evidence. As a discipline, it encompasses financial expertise, fraud knowledge, and a strong knowledge and understanding of business reality and the working of the legal system. Its development has been primarily achieved through on-the-job training, as well as experience with investigating officers and legal counsel.”

Forensic Accountants apply their knowledge to many different financial transactions such as

  • Bank Fraud & Embezzlement
  • Bank Operations & Practices
  • Check Kiting
  • Electronic Transactions
  • Embezzlement
  • Money Laundering
  • Payment Processing & Fraud Detection/Prevention
  • Royalty Audits
  • Claims Analysis
  • Determination of Compliance

A Forensic Accountant’s area of expertise is not limited to financial crimes and fraud. They apply their knowledge to civil matters as well. Their services are useful for breach of contract, business valuations and marital / family law.

Considering the amount of financial litigation out there today, whether it be civil or criminal, the Forensic Accountant’s docket is most likely as full as the courts in which they testify.

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EXPERT WITNESSES – RULES FOR VISUAL AIDS IN THE COURTROOM

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Photo Courtesy of Coulter Medical Imaging

Visual Aids and Demonstrative Evidence are an excellent way for Experts to explain complex medical, financial and technical issues to juries.  Listening to Finance Experts expand upon how damages were calculated in real estate litigation or to Medical Experts explain a botched surgery is often not enough.  For hard to follow testimony, visual displays or demonstrative evidence, such as charts, drawings, graphs, and models can be essential to capturing and maintaining a jury’s attention.

In their book entitled, “Expert Testimony,” Steven Lubet and Elizabeth I. Boals suggest that there are Six General Rules for using visual aids in the courtroom.

  1. Keep It Simple – too much information can overload the jury.
  2. Only use information essential to the case and easily demonstrated.
  3. Obtain professional assistance in drawing and developing visual displays.
  4. Work in conjunction with the attorney – the visual aids may be subject to legal or procedural rules that govern their use.
  5. Be sensitive to the judge and his/her acceptance of digital technology displays – confer with counsel.
  6. Be sensitive to the impact of graphics – an enlarged photo of a bloody bullet trajectory may be too disturbing for a jury.  A drawing may get the point across and also be less offensive.

As technology progresses, litigation is becoming increasingly more complicated for juries to understand. Using demonstrative evidence and visual aids and following these general rules can mark the difference between a case won and a case lost.

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Biomechanics Expert Witnesses & Consultants

Biomechanics are defined as the scientific study of biological and especially muscular activity – as in locomotion or exercise.  Though this field of expertise is relatively new as it pertains to litigation, it is understandable why so many attorneys are turning to biomechanical engineers to support their cases. In Smelser v. Norfolk Southern Railway
Company, 105 F.3d 299, 305 (6th Cir. 1997),  it was noted that, “Biomechanics apply the principles in mechanics to the facts of a specific accident and provide information about the forces generated in the accident, explain how the body moves in response to those forces, and thus determine what type of injuries would result from the forces generated.”

Biomechanic experts are trained in Engineering as well as Human Anatomy.  This makes them particularly useful for determining causation  in personal injury and products liability cases.  For instance, in an article entitled, Experts in Mechanisms of Injury, Biomechanics Expert, Dr. Dennis Andrews, BSOSH, MSOSH, PhD, explains that seatbelt injuries must be described to the jury in two ways: (1) the mechanisms and forces causing the injury and (2) the injuries themselves (cuts, lacerations, bruises) in detail and their locations identified.

Considering the wealth of knowledge Biomechanics Experts can bring to an injury case, it is no wonder why the demand for their services has grown so drastically over the last decade.

See Biomechanical Engineering Expert Witnesses and Consultants on Experts.com.

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