This past week, I met with a dentist in Mechanicsville, Virginia. He is currently providing treatment to one of my clients. To date, suit has not been filed, but I am trying to determine what is true and false about possible evidence. (yep… see what I did there)
This is a situation where, prior to this crash, my client has only gone to the dentist in emergency situations. She is not someone who has a history of getting her teeth cleaned the recommended twice-per-year. So, before I send a settlement package to the insurance company, I wanted to be sure about what expenses relate to the automobile crash and what might be unrelated.
This isn’t a blog about the importance of brushing our teeth…
But, I’m sure that all my dentist friends would cheer me, if I remind that we should floss, brush and go for regular teeth check-ups and dental cleaning, for great smiles.
After meeting with my client’s dentist, he determined that some of the recommended dental work is not related to the trauma of a crash. However, because he had just done an x-ray of her teeth a few months before the crash, he can now see a tooth fracture that he does relate to the trauma. So, approximately $2,000 of expenses will be attributed to the crash. He will now send a letter with that opinion, and I will include that report in the letter to the insurance adjuster.
When I meet a doctor for the first time, I am also assessing their communication skill, in case trial is necessary. Plus, I like to know if they have any experience in court or in providing deposition testimony. When I asked him if he had previously testified, he told me this story:
He had been retained by a defense attorney in a criminal trial in Henrico County. The defendant was charged with rape. Much of the evidence did point to this defendant, except for one item; The victim had identified someone who had a gold tooth. This defendant did not have a gold tooth.
In testifying, this dentist was asked to give an opinion on the health of the defendant’s teeth, and whether he had ever had gold teeth. The dentist examined the defendant; x-rayed his teeth and determined that his teeth were in good condition. It was his opinion that the defendant had never been fitted with a gold tooth, nor ever had any kind of gold tooth placed on his front teeth, for cosmetic reasons.
It was the prosecuting attorney’s opportunity to now cross-examine this dentist. He asked the dentist some easy questions about the certainty of his opinion and whether there was any chance that this defendant had ever worn a gold tooth. The identification by the victim had this one inconsistent element.
Again, the dentist reiterated his certainly about the health of the defendant’s teeth and assured the prosecuting attorney and the jury, that this man did not or had not worn a gold tooth. There simply was no need for dental work on the front teeth; and there was no evidence that the defendant had ever had a gold tooth.
The prosecuting attorney then asked for a recess, before proceeding with his questioning of the dentist. When the jury returned and the dentist had re-taken the witness stand, the attorney asked about a lady that was now sitting on the front row.
“Dr, do you know this lady?’ The dentist admitted that she was one of his patients. “When was the last time that you examined her?” The dentist paused a moment and then gave an estimate of about a month.
The Prosecutor then asked the Judge if the lady could approach the witness stand for examination by the dentist. This had the attention of all the jurors. As she got close, she smiled to reveal a gold tooth.
“Doctor, did you place that tooth on your patient? “No” he replied. The attorney continued, “Isn’t it true that she now has a gold tooth and if someone saw her on the street, they would say that she has a gold tooth?”. The dentist had to admit the obvious.
The lady then reached up and pulled the gold tooth off. Subsequently, the dentist had to admit that on examination, he could not tell that she had ever worn a gold tooth.
The prosecuting attorney then was able to establish that you can purchase a gold tooth for about ten dollars. All other evidence had pointed to the guilt of this defendant, except the gold tooth.
As the dentist told me, it probably was not the kind of expert testimony credibility that I was expecting. But, he went on to say that he learned something that day too. There truly are “gold tooth disguises” for crime. Sometimes, expert testimony does not consider all possibilities. It’s the stuff that good fiction novels contain, but this was real testimony.
For pic o’ day, I am not trying to be political; but, this picture combination of Bill and Hillary Clinton just got my attention. I know, it’s nonsense.
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