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Do I Need Expert Testimony to “Prove” My Injuries Following a Car Accident?


If you suffer complex injuries in an accident, you will typically need to provide expert medical testimony in a subsequent personal injury lawsuit to prove “causation.” Put another way, you cannot ask the jury to solely rely on your word as to the nature and extent of your injuries; you will need to present a doctor as an expert witness.

That said, Tennessee courts have long held that expert testimony is unnecessary when dealing with “simple” injuries. For example, if you have a cut or abrasion on your face, you don’t need a doctor to describe or explain those injuries to the jury. But the more complicated (or less visible) the injury, the more likely expert testimony will be necessary.

Judge: Treating Physicians Do Not Need to Be Deposed Before Trial

A recent ruling from a federal judge in an ongoing Tennessee personal injury lawsuit, Nelson v. Sims, helps to illustrate how courts look at these issues. This case was the result of a March 2018 accident involving a utility terrain vehicle (UTV). The plaintiff and the defendant has been drinking at a bar on the night in question before leaving in the UTV, with the defendant driving. The defendant missed a turn while attempting to turn onto a residential driveway and drove the UTV off the road.

The plaintiff suffered injuries in the accident. He later sued the defendant. During discovery, the plaintiff disclosed the names of three doctors that he planned to call as expert witnesses at trial. But after the plaintiff chose not to depose any of these experts, the defendant moved for summary judgment.

The defense argued that without expert testimony, the plaintiff could not prove the accident caused his injuries. And since the plaintiff did not take any depositions, he could not call any of his proposed experts as witnesses. The judge disagreed. All of the plaintiff’s proposed witnesses were doctors that personally treated him after the accident. They were therefore allowed to testify at trial with respect to that treatment. Nothing in Tennessee law required the doctors to be deposed before trial. Although “retained experts”–i.e., witnesses hired by a party to review a case and provide outside opinions–must prepare and disclose a written report prior to trial, there is no such requirement for non-retained experts like treating physicians.

Furthermore, even without any expert testimony, the plaintiff could still testify as to his own minor injuries, such as “the three- to four-inch laceration across the left side of his face.” In addition, Tennessee law creates a “rebuttable presumption” that a personal injury plaintiff’s medical expenses arising from an accident are “reasonable and necessary” so long as he presents his medical bills to the defense at least 90 days before trial, which the plaintiff here did. The defense argued this presumption only applied to bills of less than $4,000, but once again, the judge said there was nothing in Tennessee law that actually said that.

Speak with a Tennessee Car Accident Attorney Today

In any personal injury case, it is the plaintiff’s responsibility to prove the full amount of their injuries or other legal damages. An experienced Knoxville personal injury lawyer can provide you with invaluable guidance and assistance. Contact the offices of Fox, Farley, Willis & Burnette, today, to schedule a free consultation with a member of our personal injury team.




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