A Life Care Plan is an important document that is instrumental in assessing the lifetime care and medical needs of a severely injured individual. As important as this document is in telling the full story of what an individual or family are up against in terms of the future care of their loved one, sometimes the strategy of the defense is to attempt to prevent the jury from hearing this important testimony and try to get this information thrown out.
The case involved a healthy 45-year-old woman who was driving when an ambulance hit her vehicle. She sustained injuries to her low back, resulting in having to undergo pain management consisting of a series of epidural steroid injections and nerve ablations in order to control her pain. This treatment was unsuccessful in controlling her pain. After the failure of this treatment, she underwent a back fusion surgery which only partially controlled her pain.
A Life Care Planning Expert and Rehabilitation Counselor was retained by the plaintiff to develop a Life Care Plan to cost out the woman’s future medical needs.
As the case headed to trial in Northern New Jersey, the defense attorney made a motion in front of the trial judge to have the Life Care Plan testimony excluded. This motion was denied.
However, the trial judge granted a hearing under the New Jersey Supreme Court’s 2014 decision Davis v. Brinkman Landscaping, LTD which states “an expert may not provide mere net opinion” and must be able to offer objective support that a view of the standard is not personal.
The International Academy of Life Care Planners defines a Life Care Plan as, “a dynamic document based upon published standards of practice, comprehensive assessment, data analysis, and research which provides an organized, concise plan for current and future needs with associated costs for individuals who have experienced catastrophic injuries or have chronic health care needs.”
The Life Care Plan was developed by a nationally Certified Life Care Planner who followed the peer-reviewed, published methodology, and standards used in the field. In fact, all Life Care Plans are developed to comply with the Federal Court’s Daubert requirements for admissibility.
The defense attorney’s cross-examination questions during the hearing focused on the “uniqueness” of the plan for the Plaintiff. The Life Care Plan expert noted that he followed the peer-reviewed methodology, and in fact, after his examination in August 2015, the Plaintiff had relocated out of state. Thus, all the medical costs research to obtain the Life Care Plan costs had been researched not in New Jersey, but in another state. Therefore, the plan developed applied to the Plaintiff’s needs and the costs of implementing the plan were developed specifically for her.
After this informative testimony during the pre-testimony hearing, the judge ruled in favor of keeping the Life Care Plan and allowed the expert’s testimony.
After the defendants made a motion to preclude the Life Care plan on the basis of it being a “net opinion” was denied, the expert testified as to the cost of the Life Care Plan using demonstrative evidence which included large exhibits of the life care planning charts, a cost summary chart, and a full-color pie chart which highlighted the cost of each category required in the Life Care Plan.
Through the expert’s thorough preparation of the case, he was effectively able to counteract questions posed by the defense attorney on cross-examination, and the Jury awarded a verdict of over $500,000.
OAS is a Nationwide Life Care Planning/Vocational Expert company with offices in NJ, NY, PA, FL, TX, CT, and CA. To see how the OAS Life Care Planners/Vocational Experts can assist you in documenting the damages in your Personal Injury cases, call 800-292-1919 to arrange for complimentary case consultation and to receive our proposal containing the experts’ professional qualifications, fee schedule, and a sample life care plan report, or consult www.oasinc.org for further information.