top of page

Understanding Your Medical Expert Witness: Common Terminology

If you're a personal injury attorney, you know how critical it is to build a strong case for your clients. One of the most vital components of any personal injury case is the testimony of expert witnesses. In particular, board-certified Physician Life Care Planners can act as medical expert witnesses to provide objective opinions and valuable insights that can give your case a strong medical foundation.

As a medical expert witness, the Physician Life Care Planner plays a critical role in legal cases involving catastrophic injuries or illnesses. These professionals bring the expertise needed to comprehensively outline medical needs, including the types of medical treatments, therapies, and equipment necessary for recovery and ongoing care. The Physician Life Care Planner's testimony is essential in adequately presenting the extent of injuries and associated costs to the jury. Their input can help ensure that the injured party receives the appropriate compensation to cover associated lifetime medical expenses, with the care and support needed to live as independently as possible.

From medical jargon to technical terms, it can be overwhelming to sort through all of the information and translate it into language that a jury can understand. That's why it's essential for any attorney working in personal injury law to have a solid grasp of the common terminology and concepts used by Physician Life Care Planners. Here are some commonly used terms that personal injury attorneys may hear from their Physician Life Care Planner as a medical expert witness:

Life Care Plan: “The life care plan is 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 injury or have chronic health care needs.” (International Conference on Life Care Planning and the International Academy of Life Care Planners. Adopted 1998, April.)

Vocational Assessment/Loss of Earnings Capacity: A vocational assessment looks at cognitive ability, personality characteristics, personal interests, and styles of working to gain an understanding of an individual’s unique abilities, intellectual capacity, personality style, and areas of interest. This assessment can be useful when a person can no longer perform the same job duties as before and has incurred a loss of earnings due to injury. It can allow attorneys to gather valuable information on what the injured party can no longer do to get an accurate depiction of loss in terms of vocation for the remainder of the injured party's life.

Neuropsychological Assessment: A neuropsychological assessment is “an evaluation of the presence, nature, and extent of brain damage or dysfunction derived from the results of various neuropsychological tests” (American Psychological Association). This assessment can be used to determine if or how extensively a known or potential brain injury impacts an individual’s cognition, mood, and behavior, and then is used to plan for appropriate future care.

Present Value Assessment: A present value assessment is the dollar amount an individual would need today to cover future expenses and accounts for the changing value of money over time. When addressing personal injury cases, present value assessments may be calculated for future care needs, household services like in-home care and housekeeping, and loss of earnings.

Quality of Life: Refers in general to the standard of health, comfort, and happiness experienced by an individual. In a life care plan and associated depositions and/or testimony, quality of life is discussed in terms of before and after injury and takes into account the impact on an individual’s day-to-day life. It can pertain to activities of daily living (also referred to as ADLs), vocational ability, dependence on others, hobbies, and even travel.

Disability: According to the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, 6th Edition, a disability is defined as “an alteration of an individual’s capacity to meet personal, social, or occupational demands because of impairment.” Disabilities are functional limitations in regard to activities and can be physical, mental, or intellectual.

Impairment: According to the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, 6th Edition, an impairment is defined as “a loss of use, or a derangement of any body part, organ system or organ function.” Impairments refer to a problem with a structure or organ of the body and can be permanent, temporary, or situational.

Medical Chronology: The medical chronology is a compilation of injury-related acute care, outpatient visits, treatments, procedures, imaging, and rehabilitation in time sequence. This information can give context to the individual's current condition and insights into possible future needs.

Probable Duration of Care: This refers to the number of years an individual is expected to need care that includes but is not limited to physician visits, procedures, and imaging in the future within a certain degree of medical certainty.

Maximum Medical Improvement: According to the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, 6th Edition, Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI) is “the point at which a condition has stabilized and is unlikely to change (improve or worsen) substantially in the next year, with or without treatment.” This information can be used as a point of reference for your medical expert witness when determining the current or future needs of an individual.

By understanding this commonly used terminology associated with economic damages in personal injury, attorneys can be better equipped to build a persuasive argument in court and help their clients receive the compensation they deserve. Whether you're working on a case involving a traumatic brain injury, spinal cord damage, or any other medical issue, having a strong command and comprehension of some of the language used by your medical expert witness can make all the difference. Retaining a board-certified Physician Life Care Planner as a medical expert witness can be beneficial in many personal injury cases. These experts may be particularly beneficial when your client has suffered a complex injury. Not only are they able to present a detailed picture of your client’s injuries, but they are also able to provide a high-level overview of the care and associated costs needed for the remainder of your client’s lifetime. A strong Physician Life Care Planner will develop a plan for your client that is credible and defensible, bringing you a competitive edge in presenting your case and seeking fair compensation for your client.

If you're looking for a medical expert witness to build a strong case for your personal injury clients, LCPMD is here to help. Our team of board-certified Physician Life Care Planners, Vocational Experts, and PhD Economists can provide valuable insights and objective opinions that can strengthen and validate your case. Contact us today at or 833-MY-LCPMD to learn more about how LCPMD can help you and your clients.


bottom of page