Georgia Federal Court Ruling Highlighting Requirements for Introduction of Testimony by Medical Providers


July 24, 2017

If a careless or inattentive driver T-bones your car in an intersection or slams into the rear of your vehicle, the financial benefit of a settlement or judgment might ease the financial burden associated with serious injury and time off work.  Medical evidence often is critical to proving the cause, nature, and severity of the injury.  Moreover, the testimony provided by a physician will usually have a significant impact on the outcome of a personal injury claim.  Plaintiffs in personal injury lawsuits might not realize the procedural obstacles that complicate the process of getting a doctor’s testimony to be considered by a judge or jury.  In this blog article, we explore a decision that provides a detailed overview of what requirements must be met when introducing testimony from a doctor in the Federal Southern District of Georgia.

Rangel v. Anderson was decided by a federal court, so the law will not be identical to Georgia state law.  However, the case provides an example of the types of requirements that might need to be navigated to introduce testimony from a physician.  The plaintiff was injured in a rear impact collision necessitating treatment for back and neck injuries.  The case was complicated by questions about whether the accident was the cause of aggravation of a prior injury.  The plaintiff sought to introduce testimony from one of her treating doctors regarding the exacerbation of her prior injury.  However, the defendants opposed the introduction of the evidence as expert opinion because prerequisites for this type of evidence were not satisfied.

The court outlined the different requirements that must be met for specific categories of testimony for a physician in the federal court where the case was tried.  While the court noted that a physician can testify to facts observed first-hand, such as a lay witness who observes a crash, additional steps are needed to introduce other types of evidence.  The plaintiff’s treating physician expressed several opinions during his deposition.  He stated that the plaintiff had a possible “nerve root impingement” in the cervical spine.  The physician also offered an opinion that the accident likely caused an acute injury to the plaintiff’s cervical spine that included aggravation of a preexisting injury.

The federal court sided with the defendants in denying introduction of what it characterized as “expert opinion” largely because it failed to comply with the federal rules of civil procedure.  The court noted the plaintiff had to disclose the identity of a “retained expert” and provide a written report indicating certain specific information, such as the content of the expert’s proposed testimony.  The court explained that doctors disclosed merely as lay witnesses are limited in their testimony to “lay facts” as opposed to “medical facts.”  The court observed that a treating doctor for whom a summary disclosure is made can testify regarding treatment.  To provide testimony that extends beyond matters of diagnosis and treatment, such as the cause of a plaintiff’s injury, a written report must be submitted.

The specific requirements for introduction of opinion testimony of a treating doctor as an expert witness will vary depending on the type and location of the court.  However, the takeaway is that rules do exist, so an experienced personal injury lawyer can be important in your case to ensure you do not fail to satisfy any important evidentiary issues in court, such as the one distinguished in Rangel. 

If you have been injured in a collision caused by someone else's negligence, our experienced Atlanta personal injury lawyers diligently pursue the fullest recovery for our clients.  Montlick and Associates has been representing those who suffer serious injuries throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast for over thirty-three years, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333).  You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

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Please Note:
Many of our blog articles discuss the law. All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different, and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.