Woodland Hills personal injury attorney Barry P. Goldberg is often faced with decisions whether to hire experts on medical causation, or allow the plaintiff and the jury to apply common sense. Essentially, the question of whether an expert is required comes down to whether the medical [or economic] condition is “beyond common experience” such that expert testimony is required.
For example, in Jones v. Ortho Pharm. Corp. (1985) 163 Cal.App.3d 396, 403, the Court stated “Although juries are normally permitted to decide issues of causation without guidance from experts, ‘the unknown and mysterious etiology of cancer’ is beyond the experience of laymen and can only be explained through expert testimony.”].) The same is true regarding a plaintiff’s claim for closed head injury/mild traumatic brain injury resulting from an accident.
A Plaintiff is not required to introduce expert testimony to establish that his back pain and the bump on his head were caused by the collision and caused him pain and suffering. A Plaintiff’s testimony that the collision caused him to immediately suffer both injuries should be sufficient. This causation mechanism is not “beyond common experience” such that expert testimony is required. (Evid. Code, § 801, subd. (a); see, e.g., Martin v. Siller (1936) 17 Cal.App.2d 153, 158 [“Common reasoning tells us that if the eye strikes the end of a pipe, and an injury to the eye results, expert testimony is unnecessary.”].)
Nor is expert testimony necessarily required to establish that a Plaintiff’s injuries caused him to suffer noneconomic damages. Expert testimony is neither required nor appropriate to establish damages for pain and suffering. (See Loth v. Truck-A-Way Corp. (1998) 60 Cal.App.4th 757, 767 [“A plaintiff’s loss of enjoyment of life is not ‘a subject that is sufficiently beyond common experience that the opinion of an expert would assist the trier of fact.’ “]; CACI No. 3905A [“No fixed standard exists for deciding the amount of these noneconomic damages. You must use your judgment to decide a reasonable amount based on the evidence and your common sense.”].)
To the extent a plaintiff seeks to recover damages for future pain and suffering, he would have to introduce expert testimony that he would endure future pain and suffering. (See Oliveira v. Warren (1938) 24 Cal.App.2d 712, 716 [“where an injury is subjective and of such a nature that laymen cannot, with reasonable certainty, know whether or not there will be future pain and suffering, expert evidence by men learned in human anatomy must be offered”].)
A Plaintiff is not required to introduce expert testimony to establish his lost profits or lost earning capacity. (See Gargir v. B’nei Akiva (1998) 66 Cal.App.4th 1269, 1280.) If a Plaintiff testifies his injuries prevented him from working and lose certain revenues, he is not required to substantiate this testimony with expert opinion to reach a jury.
Just because expert testimony is not required does not mean that having an expert on certain items of causation and damages is a bad idea. To the contrary, it is often advisable to have experts testify as to future damages and causation even if not absolutely required. We recommend that any litigant consult with an experienced trial attorney to develop a sufficient expert witness plan before trying a case to a jury.