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Expert Witness in Personal Injury Cases

Many personal injury attorneys retain the services of an expert witness. These witnesses can provide detailed information that may help prove their side of the case. However, accident victims must determine whether the additional cost of hiring an expert will be justified.

Role of Witnesses

In personal injury cases, witnesses may be called to the stand to help provide clarity on contested issues. For example, a witness may have seen a motor vehicle accident and can provide an objective statement about how it occurred.

The role of expert witnesses is much different. An expert witness is someone who has specific technical knowledge in a particular subject. This subject is one that has special significance in the nature of the case. Often, an expert witness is one who possesses special knowledge, training and education that specially qualifies him or her as an expert. While the expert witness has not usually witnessed the actual event that led to the claim, he or she is permitted to testify because he or she can add important information to the claim. The basis of an expert witness’ testimony relies on the special
knowledge that he or she has regarding the nature of the claim. This knowledge and subsequent testimony can help with making a determination on key issues involved in the case.

Different Types of Expert Witnesses

There are a number of different types of expert witnesses. The first major classification of expert witnesses is whether the expert is brought into the case as a consulting witness or as a testifying expert. Consulting experts help explain key issues and facts of the case involved in the case. These individuals do not actually testify at court. However, they can be vital to the case because they are able to explain complex issues to the attorneys who can use this knowledge as they approach the case.

A testifying expert is someone who will provide testimony in front of the judge or jury. He or she must be able to communicate effectively to these individuals. Sometimes an expert may be both a consulting and a testifying expert. The designation of the expert can be important because of discovery rules. Generally, the information shared by a testifying expert is able to be discovered by the other side while consulting notes that are made in anticipation of litigation are not.

Within this large classification, there are specific types of expert witnesses. In personal injury cases, it is common to have expert witnesses in the medical and health industry. They may testify about the victim’s injuries, recovery options and treatment information. If the case involves medical malpractice, it is almost always necessary to have a medical expert testify about the standard of care and how the defendant deviated from this standard in order to prevail on the case.

Another common type of expert is an engineering expert. Engineering experts can testify about how buildings were not properly structured or how roadways were not maintained properly. They may be most prevalent in premises liability cases.

Manufacturing experts may testify about how a particular automotive part or other product was defective and how it led to injury. Economic experts can testify about the economic impact of the accident on the victim, such as by stating how his or her earning capacity has been affected and the monetary value of the loss of services.

Importance of Expert Witnesses in Personal Injury Cases

In many personal injury cases, expert witnesses are not required. However, in cases involving automotive accidents, slips and falls, product liability claims and other personal injury cases, the victim may receive a number of benefits by retaining an expert witness. For example, they can often obtain an analysis by an expert, which provides an objective opinion by someone with special knowledge, education and training. Additionally, the victim can have the claim reviewed and investigated in depth. Expert witnesses provide greater credibility to claims and can help explain complex issues to the fact finder. Juries and judges may be swayed by the expert’s testimony, potentially resulting in a favorable outcome for the victim.

Before retaining an expert witness, victims of personal injury cases may wish to consult with their personal injury attorney to determine if it is in their best interest to use an expert witness and the benefits that may be associated with using an expert.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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