Articles Tagged with expert

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Blackwell Law Firm -- Alabama Personal Injury LawyersWhat’s The Deal With Biestek v. Berryhill?

In Biestek v. Berryhill, a construction worker applied for Social Security disability benefits. Following a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) denied his benefit application. The ALJ decision denying social security benefits is not unusual. The real question in the case was whether or not Biestek had a fair hearing.

In Social Security hearings, the ALJ will often retain a vocational expert to provide opinion testimony. In Biestek, that vocational expert testified the worker could perform a number of different jobs in the national economy. In other words, Biestek was not vocationally disabled. The vocational expert then testified she reached her opinions based upon individual market surveys in her possession. So, on cross-examination, Biestek’s attorney asked to see the data. That’s fair. That’s a very reasonable request. Should any expert be allowed to give an opinion while refusing to show the underlying data? That’s when the ALJ intervened and refused the lawyer’s request. What we now have is an expert who provided an unsubstantiated and unsupported opinion.

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Personal Injury - Blackwell Law Firm
We trust our doctors. We should. Most doctors are dedicated to helping people. In Huntsville, we are fortunate to have excellent medical professionals.

This post is not about those dedicated doctors (the vast majority) who treat and help their patients. This post is about the rare (but extremely harmful) doctor who earns his/her living not by treating patients — but by selling biased and false opinions for insurance companies in an effort to mislead courts and juries. These paid insurance experts are usually not local. And, they usually don’t provide treatment to real patients. Every profession has a few bad apples. When it comes to these “paid biased experts,” their impact harms the entire justice system.

I’ve cross-examined these biased, paid experts for many years. A recent news article in Nevada highlighted a doctor in that state who was banned from testifying by two local judges. In banning this paid expert, the Nevada judges issued a blistering opinion. The judges found the paid expert gave opinions based “heavily on speculation and other irrelevant factors.” They also found the insurance expert had a “history of personal bias as to some treating physicians and extreme bias” against plaintiffs.

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Photo by Bill JacobusIn many personal injury cases, wage losses are an important part of the damages. In many workers’ compensation claims, vocational disability (either partial or total) is the essential issue. How do we prepare our clients’ wage or vocational claims? We often use vocational experts. What is a vocational rehabilitation expert? Vocational experts possess special training related to the labor market and the jobs which may be available given a person’s limitations or restrictions.

Over the last two decades, I’ve questioned many vocational experts at trial. Too many lawyers attempt to cross-examine vocational experts using an argumentative style that gets nowhere. Big mistake. A lawyer who handles personal injury and workers’ compensation claims needs to understand the basics of vocational evaluations. This knowledge makes a huge difference in how much an injured client recovers by settlement or trial. If you are looking for a personal injury lawyer, make sure you ask if he or she has real trial experience using and questioning these experts.

A skilled lawyer can often expose deceptive defense experts. This requires an understanding of the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT). And, it requires a knowledge of how restrictions can impact a person’s ability to work. What are five common tricks used by defense  vocational experts to harm your personal injury claim?