Types of Expert Witnesses in Personal Injury Cases
An expert’s word can carry tremendous weight in a personal injury case, especially if there is a jury. Having the right expert can also pressure the other side to settle. Personal injury cases can and regularly do involve a broad range of evidence types, ranging from photographic materials taken at an accident scene to reams of medical treatment records compiled over the course of months. In cases involving especially complicated or highly technical concepts, however, expert witness testimony sometimes takes center stage in terms of helping shape the ultimate outcome. Succinctly stated, an expert witness is someone who has a high degree of specialized knowledge, training and/or experience in a relevant field and who can provide testimony designed to clarify key issues for judges or juries.
What is an Expert Witness?
Expert witnesses are people who have a specific background in either medicine, science, technology, or another field. These professionals are fully qualified and able to explain their opinion on evidence that can be used as testimony.
By having an expert witness offer testimony, the situation can be properly explained to the jury. The facts provided by the expert witness should be the result analysis on the data of the case. Essentially, an expert witness is an educated person who gives legitimacy to a claim based on their education and experience in the field.
Difference Between an Expert Witness and a Lay Witness
Witnesses involved in personal injury cases are generally broken down into two categories: lay and expert. A lay witness is anyone who is not an expert but can offer testimony about things that he or she observed. Any opinions offered are limited based on their own perceptions.
On the other hand, an expert witness is anyone who has specific knowledge, skills, training or experience that makes him or her qualified to discuss specific issues. Expert witnesses do not discuss what they observed. They provide an opinion based on facts and evidence of the case.
When is it Valuable to Bring in an Expert Witness?
It is never required to use an expert witness, but if you know you were not at fault for an accident then it can definitely help. This is true whether you are the defendant or victim.
- If You Are the Defendant
When you are being accused of causing harm to someone else it is always a bad situation, especially if you do not believe that you are at fault. Whether you sustained injuries as well, or you know that the plaintiff (victim) is lying, an expert witness can clear things up. Rather than take the blame for something you did not do; an expert witness will clarify the facts. This can be the difference between winning and losing a case. It will also most likely save you a lot of money in fees and insurance costs.
- If You Are the Victim
Also known as the plaintiff, if you are the victim in a personal injury case, then you will want to collect damages. If your injuries are extensive, using an expert witness will allow you to have someone to back up your claims. You might also want to bring in an expert witness if the incident is complex or out of the ordinary. Since this is not something that is seen every day, the jury may get a better picture if an educated person speaks on it. Especially if the person you are accusing has denied fault, an expert witness can push the truth to justice and help you win your claim.
Using Expert Witnesses: Choose the Type of Expert You Need
There are two broad categories of experts. A consulting expert helps counsel understand technical issues in the case, while a testifying expert offers an opinion to the factfinder. Once you have determined whether you need a consulting or testifying expert, you then need to determine the subject matter that you need the expert for. Below are some of the more common types of subject matter expert witnesses for personal injury cases.
Medical experts testify about the victim’s specific injury or injuries, their prognosis and recovery options, and their treatment information. If it applies, they will also provide their expert opinion on how the injury will affect the victim for a certain time period or for the rest of their life. In medical malpractice cases, a medical expert is almost always necessary to testify about the normal standard of care and how the defendant deviated from this standard. Because medical malpractice cases revolve completely around the idea of what a typical doctor would do, it is critical to have a doctor from that field to testify; they are often credible and well-reputed in their field. Medical experts will most likely not be the injured person’s regular or primary care doctors or health providers, but rather ones that examine them after the case starts. Once they complete a series of examinations they then offer independent reports and opinions about the victim’s injuries. They may do this on a consulting and/or testifying basis. Medical experts could be specialists, such as orthopedic surgeons, or more general practitioners; this greatly depends on the needs of the case.
The term “first responders” usually refers to the emergency personnel that are the first to arrive at the site of an accident and includes firefighters, police officers, and EMTs. In court, they can provide testimony related to their job experience and present opinions based on what they saw combined with their knowledge of previous incidents.
Qualified medical examiners are responsible for evaluating the cause(s) of death, and their expert testimony can be vital to a wrongful death case in regard to determining responsibility. These expert witnesses conduct examinations and provide qualified and objective opinions on a victim’s medical condition and cause of death.
Car Accident Reconstructionist
After a car accident takes place, injured parties can pursue legal action in order to recover compensation. To do so, they are required to prove the other party involved in the accident was negligent. There are a variety of pieces of evidence that can help an injured party do so. When liability is in question, car accident reconstruction may be able to help.
Vocational specialists provide testimony focusing on what types of positions you might be able to obtain given your physical health and current level of education. They assess factors such as transferable skills, resources for retraining, and the local job market to determine your overall employability.
Consultants and expert witnesses who may provide expert witness testimony regarding vocational evaluation and rehabilitation may be found by clicking on the following links. Rehabilitation specialists found here may consult on earning assessment, earning capacity, and job demands. These experts may provide reports concerning physical rehabilitation, rehabilitation programs, transferable skills analysis, vocational assessment, vocational rehabilitation, and workplace accommodation, among other topics.
A forensic toxicologist provides clarification in personal injury cases that involve an investigation into medical malpractice deaths, drug interactions, poisoning, and cases that involve drug use. Some companies that employ forensic toxicologists use a panel in order to ensure the testimony of the experience is based on evidence, is objective, and reflects current toxicology standards.
Neurology experts may provide testimony on a variety of topics relating to the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. Oftentimes, a neurologist may be needed to testify to the degree of your injury, your level of disability, and your treatment plan moving forward.
Brain injuries often require years of rehabilitation or assistive care, and you need to take this into consideration before accepting a settlement with the insurance company. Through the testimony of a neurologist, you can further prove your damages and seek compensation to cover these expected future costs.
Orthopedic surgeons manage patients with disorders of the musculoskeletal system, including the joints, muscles, bones and ligaments. When your case requires testimony or medical analysis in this specialty, it’s critical to find an orthopedic surgery expert witness who is Board Certified and currently practicing in the U.S.
Pain Management Specialist
Since some types of injuries can leave a victim with chronic pain and discomfort, the injured party can often help his/her case by using the testimony of a pain management specialist who may assist with disputes involving acute pain, headaches, and chronic pain. Experts may provide reports on muscle spasms, fibromyalgia, low back pain, neck pain, and mid-back pain. These professionals are also available to opine on arthritic pain, chronic pain, pain medications, and degenerative disc disease, as well as related issues.
Particularly useful in accidents caused by 18-wheeler trucks, maintenance specialists can be critical to proving the trucking company did not perform maintenance as claimed or required, and whether or not this negligence led to (or contributed to) the truck accident.
Even though trucking companies are required to keep their vehicles in top shape and maintain records of maintenance, they do not always do so. They will seldom willingly accept any kind of accountability for accidents that occur as a result of poor maintenance, as the burden of proof is on you, the plaintiff. Sometimes the best way to prove accountability is to hire an expert witness to testify before the court.
Phone Records Specialist
Cell phone records are frequently used as evidence in car accident cases where one driver suspects that the other was texting and driving. Their testimony can be used to demonstrate whether or not the other driver was likely using their mobile phone at the time of the accident, which can help prove liability.
A Personal Injury Lawyer Can Make All the Difference
If you have an ongoing personal injury case with a need for an expert witness, Duque Law Group has a large network that can help with your case.
If you or a loved one has suffered injury and have questions about seeking legal action, call us now at 1-877-241-9554 to learn more about your options. A free consultation is just a phone call away.