This article, written by Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Judge and Law Professor, David B. Torrey, is an excellent overview of his thoughts on 1) how a work comp judge assesses the credibility of an injured worker and other law witnesses, 2) whether surveillance evidence is effective, and 3) what behaviors of counsel can actually hurt his client’s chances of success in a case.
One particular part of his article which I want to highlight is the demeanor of a witness. Judge Torrey notes that due to the artificial environment of a courtroom, many people may be nervous or acting unnaturally. He stated that some claimants will be angry and/or depressed- naturally- because they are a class of people who are by definition injured and often without money. Judge Torrey also pointed out, and correctly so, that many injured workers have never been to a business meeting or even worn a tie.
His point, in highlighting these facts, was to say that the fact finder- that is, the judge, must set aside any prejudice that is present as a result of seeing these behaviours and wait until all of the evidence surfaces, before making any credibility assessments.
I couldn’t agree more. I sometimes have clients, (100% injured workers) who, in our preparation, seem calm, coherent, and credible, but then when they are in the witness stand in court, they appear shaky, insecure, and so nervous that it appears as if they don’t really know what happened during the work accident- because their nerves got a hold of them. But something that was not discussed in this portion of his article is the demeanor of the judge. Some judges are naturally friendlier than others. This can make a big difference to someone who is really nervous. A little small talk, before the hearing, can go a long way to break the ice and show the injured worker that there is nothing to be afraid of. Similarly, the attitude of defense counsel can play a role in an injured worker’s behavior. Some are abrasive and this can rattle a claimant into being obsequious, angry, or defensive.
You can read the article in its entirety below by clicking on the link.
The Cardamone Law Firm
The Firm For Injured Workers In Pennsylvania