In State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Long, an insurance provider appealed a verdict in favor of the insured for almost $170,000. The insured sustained an injury to his shoulder due to a motorcycle accident. Some time afterward, he filed a claim against his uninsured motorist carrier, State Farm, requesting money totaling $100,000 in uninsured motorist/underinsured motorist coverage. At trial, the jury awarded the insured damages in the amount of $116,000 for past and future medical bills, with approximately $46,000 for past medical bills.
To support his claim, the insured called a physician’s assistant to testify about future medical expenses. The expert worked exclusively with the insured’s orthopedic surgeon and stated that shoulder problems comprise a significant portion of this practice, and approximately half of all patients who come in with shoulder problems ultimately require surgery. Furthermore, the expert testified that the insured’s only option was to get surgery. Between the years of 2009 to 2014, the expert saw the insured about 10 times.
The insurance company objected to the physician’s assistant providing information as an expert witness, arguing that only the surgeon should be allowed to provide this type of opinion. State Farm also said that the physician’s assistant was not capable of giving his opinion about an upcoming surgery or the costs connected with such a procedure.
On appeal, the court examined the requirements that have to be met for a witness to be able to offer expert opinion testimony. Under the law, an expert witness must possess the “requisite knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education on the subject about which the witness is called to testify.” Ultimately, whether a witness should be considered an expert is up to the trial judge to decide, and the judge has a lot of discretion when it comes to determining the subject matter about which an expert can testify.
In the case at hand, the physician’s assistant testified that he is not a medical physician and that all his duties are performed under the supervision of the surgeon. He does possess the authority to enter information into a patient’s medical record without the say-so of the physician, and the surgeon must sign any notes he does make.
While it was appropriate for the physician’s assistant to testify about the treatment he provided to the insured, he could not appropriately testify about whether the patient needed surgery. The physician’s assistant argued that he had worked alongside the surgeon for a long time and “knows how he thinks.” The court rejected this argument, and it ultimately reversed and remanded the case. It is important to note that the physician’s assistant could be an expert witness, but he must have been able to establish that he could provide testimony regarding the subject matter about which he was speaking.
If you or a loved one has been hurt in a motorcycle accident, it is important to seek the help of a qualified Miami attorney who can help you pursue the compensation you deserve for your harm. At the Law Offices of Robert Dixon, we understand this is a stressful time for you, which is why you can expect the utmost compassion from our entire team. To learn more, feel free to call us at 1-877-499-HURT (4878) or contact us online today.
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