Expert Testimony in Motor Vehicle Accidents

Expert testimony is often needed in motor vehicle accidents because of resultant eye injuries. Trauma sustained from motor vehicle accidents may result in corneal abrasions, inflammation inside the eye (iritis), retinal tears or retinal detachment, blood inside the eye (hyphema), or fractures of the eye socket (orbital fracture).

  • External eye injuries

Trauma to the surface of the eye can result in abrasions or lacerations of the conjunctiva, the white tissue that covers the front of the eye.  Fortunately, injury to the conjunctiva usually heals without visual sequelae.  Trauma to the clear front window of the eye, the cornea, may also result in lacerations or abrasions.  Injury to cornea may result in significant discomfort or pain because the cornea is laden with very sensitive nerve fibers.   Trauma to the eye can cause inflammation to develop inside the eye.  Inflammation in the interior front portion of the eye is also know as iritis.  An eye examination may also disclose the presence of a traumatic cataract or the existence of a retina problem from trauma sustained in a motor vehicle accident.  Expert testimony in motor vehicle accidents may enlighten attorneys, judges, and juries about the nature and severity of eye damage from trauma.

  • Airbags and Orbital Fractures

Airbags may serve to protect the eye under certain circumstances. However, airbag-related eye injuries constitute approximately 5% of all motor-vehicle related crash injuries. In a study from SM Duma and MV Jernigan that was published in Ophthalmic Plastic Resonstructive Surgery, an analysis of the National Automotive Sampling System database files from 1993 to 2000 were conducted. The analysis included 12,429,580 front-seat occupants from 25,464 cases. Of all occupants exposed to an airbag deployment, 0.09% sustained an orbital fracture. In contrast, occupants who were not exposed to an airbag deployment were more than twice as likely to sustain an orbital fracture (0.22%). In addition to reduction in incidence, airbags were also shown to decrease the severity of orbital frctures that occupants sustained. This is accomplished because the airbag minimizes the occupant contact with the windshield and steering wheel, which are the two leading sources of orbital fractures for occupants not exposed to airbag deployment.  Expert testimony in Motor Vehicle accidents may be needed to explain the mechanism for orbital fractures and their significance.

  • Seatbelts and Ocular Injuries

Dr. S.K. Rao studied 47 patients to evaluate the association between seatbelt use, the variety of ocular injuries and vision outcomes after car accidents with airbag deployment. Of cases involving eye injury, 83% were to the anterior surface of the eye and ocular adnexa. The most common injuries were lid sweling, subconjunctival hemorrhage, and corneal abrasion. Injuries to the posterior segment of the eye occurred only in patients unrestrained by a seatbelt. Final visual acuity of 20/40 or better was observed in 96% of patients using seatbelts and 76% of patients who were unrestrained.

  • Cell phones and driving (source: State Farm Insurance)

Statistics show that the likelihood for getting into motor vehicle accident increases significantly when a driver is distracted by using a cell phone.  A driver may lose visual attention on the road when distracted by dialing or reaching for a cell phone.  Cell phone texting while driving may pose an even greater hazard because of prolonged distraction when visual attention is directed to the message and not on the road.  Cell phones when used for dialing or testing can be An increasing number of states require drivers to use hands-free units while talking on the phone and driving. But experts say even a hands-free unit can be dangerous. Early evidence of the dangers of hands-free phone use shows the problem lies in “cognitive distraction from the conversation,” according to Anne McCartt, a vice president with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. This means someone on the other end of the driver’s cell phone conversation can’t see what’s happening on the road and therefore can’t point out a car stopping abruptly, as a passenger would. “Driving while talking on the phone approaches the same disability in terms of driving as driving while intoxicated does,” says clinical psychologist Dr. Cathy Blusiewicz. In fact, just talking on the phone reduces activity in the part of the brain responsible for driving by 37 percent, according to a study by neuroscientist Dr. Marcel Just and colleagues at the Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging at Carnegie Mellon University.

Expert testimony in motor vehicle accidents may prove invaluable when information is needed about causation and damages.  A qualified ophthalmologist experienced in trauma may serve as a valuable resource for attorneys with cases involving ocular injury associated with motor vehicle accidents.

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