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CJ Henry Law Firm, PLLC

The Difference Between Weak and Strong Lay Witness Testimony

  • Published: November 8, 2011

Your Ocala disability lawyer may ask lay witnesses to testify on your behalf at your Social Security disability hearing. A lay witness is a witness who is not an expert in the medical field. While not an expert, a lay witness can still provide strong testimony on a claimant’s behalf by describing any observations the lay witness has noticed regarding the claimant’s condition. Therefore, strong lay witness testimony recounts the witness’s observations, and does not simply offer a conclusion regarding the claimant’s medical condition. The strongest lay witness testimony will provide the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) with a detailed account of a specific incident the witness observed.

For example, suppose the claimant suffers from a breathing problem like asthma, emphysema, or COPD. The witness might say: “John is disabled because he has emphysema.”

Or, the witness might say: “John is my neighbor and I visit with him a few times a week. John spends most of his time sitting in his recliner. The front door is about 15 steps away. When I ring the door bell, it takes John over a minute to get to the door and he is always so out of breath he can barely say ‘Hello.’ He always has to pause to catch his breath before he can turn around and walk back to his recliner. He spends most of our visit sitting in the recliner. He used to fix me a cup of coffee, but now I make it and serve us both because it is so difficult for John to walk around.”

The first testimony is weak because it reaches a conclusion that a lay witness is not qualified to make. Only a medical expert can assess whether the claimant has a medical condition that impairs the claimant’s ability to work.

The second testimony is much stronger because the witness has given the ALJ evidence from which the ALJ can conclude that the claimant has a severe breathing problem. The lay witness does not have to provide the diagnosis. It will come from the claimant’s doctors and medical records.

If you are not already represented and would like to consult with an experienced Ocala Social Security attorney at the CJ Henry Law Firm, call (352) 304-5300.

Claudeth Henry

Attorney Henry is a Florida disability lawyer uniquely suited to
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