Auto Insurance Company’s Latest Weapon, the Biomechanical Engineer
In motor vehicle personal injury litigation, insurance companies hire doctors to examine an injured plaintiff and testify for the defendants at trial. Fortunately, some of these doctors are not pawns of the insurance companies and will write reports that confirm the plaintiff sustained serious injuries as a result of the accident. However, the insurance companies have enlisted a new field of experts, biomechanical engineers. Biomechanics is a subspecialty of mechanical engineering that trains engineers to design new medical products such as artificial organs or diagnostic equipment. Some biomechanical engineers evaluate the safety and efficiency of existing biomedical equipment and work to make improvements. In recent years, insurance companies have hired biomechanical engineers to testify that an accident could not have caused a persons injuries based upon the laws of physics. These experts almost always have no medical training and would not even know how many vertebrae are in the human spine to discuss spinal injuries. These engineers conduct a very small amount of tests on cars and then try to extrapolate their findings to almost every type of accident, person, and vehicle.
An experienced personal injury lawyer knows how to expose that these proclaimed experts have no basis for their opinions. BBNR recently made a motion asking the court to prevent a biomechanical engineer hired by the defendants insurance company from testifying at trial to dispute the cause of the accident, and was successful. After two days of cross examining the expert on the witness stand, the court rendered a decision agreeing with BBNR that the expert was not qualified to render a medical opinion. As stated by the court:
Other than co-workers, Dr. Kaplan does not work with people; he works with numbers, pictures, graphs, formulas and computers. And while he did not disagree with any medical diagnosis of either plaintiff, he certainly did disagree with any claim that the subject accident caused the claimed injuries.
This was his first time testifying in court. Dr. Kaplan is not a medical doctor of any type; he never went to medical school, he does not have any patients and he does not diagnose or treat anybody. From his calculations, Dr. Kaplan opined that the forces involved in the subject accident could not have caused the injuries that plaintiffs claimed.
Dr. Kaplan’s testimony that there is plenty of research to support his methodology was conclusory. There may be many litigation consultants employing the same or similar procedures, but that is a far cry from the scientific community at large. Litigation consultants may be ahead of their time, but there is no indication that Dr. Kaplan’s methods have spread to and been accepted by the general scientific community. Therefore, Dr. Kaplan’s opinion that the accident did not cause or contribute to plaintiffs’ injuries is based upon unreliable methodology and lacks sufficient foundation.
White v. Grocery Haulers, Inc. 2014 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 738, 2014 NY Slip Op 30412 [J. Bluth, New York County].
That decision eventually helped persuade the carrier to settle the case shortly before trial for $740,000. If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident, call the experienced law firm of BBNR, A law firm you can trust.