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Expert Witnesses in Personal Injury Cases: What You Need to Know

Fighting a personal injury case could be a complex ordeal, and in many cases, an attorney will rely on the testimony of expert witnesses to help make your case. If you aren’t sure what an expert witness does or how it can help your personal injury claim, here’s what you need to know.

The Role of Expert Witnesses in Personal Injury Cases

Although your personal injury attorney does the actual litigation or negotiation on your behalf, you need supporting evidence to validate your claim. An expert witness is a person with specialized knowledge of a particular area in your case, either from formal training or extensive experience. These individuals provide testimony that could help a judge or jury understand the specifics of your case.

The Legal Requirements for an Expert Witness

Not just anyone can qualify as an expert witness in any situation, particularly in a personal injury case. According to the Federal Rules of Evidence (which apply to state courts as well), expert witnesses must meet the following criteria for their particular field:

  • Skill
  • Knowledge
  • Education
  • Training
  • Experience

An expert witness in a personal injury case could be a surgical expert, car accident expert, slip-and-fall expert, mental health expert, and individuals representing other fields. In a personal injury case, medical experts are often testifying experts to the nature of injuries sustained, the treatment or prognosis, and other details regarding the individual’s health and medical requirements. However, there are many different types of expert witnesses depending on the nature of the case. Your attorney could call:

  • Medical expert
  • Forensic expert
  • Financial expert
  • Highway safety experts
  • Economic experts
  • Liability experts

The Limitations of an Expert Witness

Expert witnesses can provide legal testimony as long as they meet specific criteria. Calling a standard witness only allows testimony about something they have physically observed. Still, expert witnesses can provide their professional opinion through testimony over a specific piece of evidence. These four requirements should be met when allowing expert testimony.

  1. The expert’s specialized, technical, or scientific knowledge will help the court determine the factors or evidence regarding the issue.
  2. The testimony provided is founded on sufficient data or facts.
  3. The testimony is the result of reliable methods and principles.
  4. Reliable principles and methods have been applied to the facts of the case.

In personal injury cases, the expert witness may only speak to the evidence where they have direct qualifications. A mental health expert can’t speak to any evidence regarding lost wages due to a broken bone. Still, the expert could address the psychological trauma impacting the ability of the injured person to return to work. Personal injury attorneys gather and present the evidence surrounding your claim and know which consulting experts to present for a particular piece of evidence.

The Collaboration with an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney

Personal injury cases have many moving parts; expert witnesses are just one part of the process. Suppose you are pursuing full and fair compensation for your personal injury on your own. In that case, you may not have the resources to call individuals from the relevant scientific community to speak on your behalf. This is why it’s essential to have legal representation for your personal injury case. Attorneys know who qualifies as expert witnesses and often have individuals on retainer, meaning they don’t face as long of a wait when looking for expert witness testimony. If you don’t have a lawyer, take advantage of a practice offering a free consultation to connect with an attorney who can take your personal injury case.

You can help your attorney find the right expert witness for your case by relaying the facts and situation as clearly and thoroughly as possible. This lays the foundation for your claims and establishes what kind of testimony is needed. From there, the experts can shed light on the physical evidence and help prove the details of the case.

The Support During Personal Injury Cases

If your attorney hires an expert witness, it is for the sole purpose of advancing your case. The fundamental task is to support your claims or strengthen the argument behind the evidence. However, it’s highly likely that the opposing council will also present an expert witness to either discredit the testimony or undermine the argument’s validity. Experts can clarify or support your argument during the case, but again, only in their area of expertise. A qualified individual could become both a consulting and testifying expert depending on the needs of the case.

Medical Experts

While these individuals could testify in a range of cases, having them in a personal injury case is vital. The medical expert can speak about the injuries you sustained and how they occurred. They can also testify about the formal diagnosis, what the prescribed treatment plan will accomplish, and the potential medical treatment you could need in the future. Since medical costs are often a considerable part of compensation requests, having your own expert testify on the past, present, and future medical care related to the accident can get you closer to fair compensation.

Mental Health Experts

These expert witnesses are useful when seeking compensation for psychological or emotional distress related to the accident. They can testify how the trauma from the accident or injuries has impacted your emotional or mental health, potentially causing anxiety, depression, or another mental health concern.

Accident Reconstruction Experts

In some cases, these experts would be called to provide clarity on how the accident happened. This may be the case if serious contention exists about who is at fault for the incident. These individuals are often mechanical engineers. Accident reconstructionists can help explain how the accident occurred by discussing debris, skid marks, vehicle damage, and more. Similarly, human factors experts speak to how the individuals involved may have influenced the accident by how they acted or reacted.

The Connection to a Motor Vehicle Accident

Don’t be alarmed when your attorney brings in expert opinions in your case. Although injuries are common in motor vehicle accidents, proving who is liable for the damages can be challenging. Different standards across the states highlight how important an expert witness can help prove your case successfully to a judge or jury.

Find Help for Your Personal Injury Claim

If you have questions about hiring a lawyer or dealing with the aftermath of a personal injury, contact 1 800 Ask Gary. We can help you navigate common concerns regarding your rights to fair and just compensation.