Virginia personal injury cases often involve the use of expert witnesses to lend further credibility to how an accident took place or the extent of a party’s injuries. Sometimes, however, these expert witnesses could be biased or appear to have an interest in the case that could significantly alter the presentation of accurate facts during trial.
In a recent Supreme Court of Virginia opinion, the court had to consider whether evidence of an expert witness’s financial relationship with an insurance company was admissible. Following a car accident where the plaintiff was hit from behind by the defendant’s vehicle, the plaintiff experienced significant physical pain in addition to increased anxiety and depression. After the collision, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendant for $150,000 in damages.
The defendant’s auto insurance company retained an attorney to represent her in the case, who hired an orthopedic surgeon to serve as an expert witness. This expert witness previously worked with the attorney on numerous occasions and had been paid by the defendant’s insurance company for his services even though they did not directly hire him. During the trial, the plaintiff moved to introduce evidence of the expert witness’s previous relationship with the defendant’s attorney and auto insurance company. The lower court denied the plaintiff’s request, arguing that there was no direct relationship between the expert and the insurance company, so she could only introduce evidence of the expert’s previous work testifying on behalf of the attorney’s clients.