Eye Expert Testimony for Alleged Eye Injury by Police

Eye expert testimony for alleged eye injury by police is often needed in cases brought to trial.

On August 27, 2011, staff writer Richard Winton of the Los Angeles Times reported that a 35-year old parolee filed a claim against the city of El Monte and its Police Department alleging that he lost much of his eyesight after he was beaten by officers.  Cornelio David Chavez, 35 was involved in a violent altercation June 24 with several El Monte police officers who were trying to arrest him on an outstanding warrant, police said.

Brad Gage, Chavez’s attorney, alleged in a claim against the city that Chavez was handcuffed and beaten by officers.  A claim is typically a precursor to a lawsuit.

Eye expert testimony is useful in such cases to determine causation of eye injuries and the extent of damage. Trauma to the eye can result in a multitude of eye damages including cataracts, glaucoma, and retinal detachment.

When Chavez’s 3-year-old nephew tried to come to his uncles’s aid, “one or more officers pulled out either a gun or Taser gun to point it at the 3-year-old,” Gage said.  The attorney added that several family members, including Chavez’s mother witnessed portions of the incident.  Chavez suffered broken facial bones and was left 85% blind, Gage said. Eye expert testimony for alleged eye injury by police may address the relationship of facial broken bones and its impact on vision. Police said they are investigating the allegations.

In a statement, El Monte Police Chief Steve Schuster said officers went to the parolee’s address after receiving a tip that he was under the influence of drugs.  A background check revealed that he had a felony no-bail warrant with pending charges for weapons and assault on an officer.

Schuster said Chavez appeared to be under the influence of drugs and engaged in a “heated physical struggle” with police that resulted in an injury to one officer.  He added that Chavez is believed to have been struck in the head when one of the officers felt the suspect reaching for his gun. The influence of drugs on ocular status is another factor that may be addressed by expert eye testimony. The department says that officers obtained immediate medical attention for Chavez, who has been charged with resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer.

Cases like this involving significant injury to the eyes require eye expert testimony to assist in determining causation and the extent of injury. An eye expert who is experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of trauma may assess the extent of damages and the prognosis of ocular injuries.

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