Do I Need an Expert Witness for My Personal Injury Case?

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Companies and individuals are usually not keen on the idea of providing payouts, even when they are justified. They often need to be ordered by the law to do that, which is something an expert witness can help with.

During a trial, the testimony provided by an expert witness can make the difference between you being awarded compensation or ending up with nothing. They can be as helpful as physical evidence in some cases.

The hope is that you never find yourself in a situation where you go to trial because of someone’s actions or negligence injures you. If that ever happens, though, know that you can rely on an expert witness to supply valuable assistance.

expert witness sworn in

What Is an Expert Witness?

Typically, the witnesses they call into court are not allowed to share their own opinions. They are regarded as Witnesses of Fact.

Expert witnesses are individuals who possess more knowledge pertaining to a particular subject or field compared to the average person. They vary from other witnesses brought to court precisely because they call them to offer their opinions.

We consider doctors as experts, but even among those professionals, you will encounter those who know even more about a specific topic. That’s why if you have a heart condition that you would like to know more about, you’re probably consulting a cardiologist.

For example, in a case where a plaintiff is accusing the defendant of medical malpractice following foot surgery, a renowned orthopedic surgeon may be brought in to provide his/her own take on what happened.

The attorneys for both the plaintiff and the defendant may call upon expert witnesses if they so desire. However, an expert witness should not favor one side over the other. They are supposed to offer an impartial opinion during the trial.

Plaintiffs and defendants need to understand that summoning an expert witness to court could backfire on them, so it’s a move they need to carefully consider

Also, while plaintiffs and defendants can ask experts to help them put together their arguments, the expert witnesses are not supposed to assist in that manner.

What Are the Qualifications of an Expert Witness?

Let’s say that you are the plaintiff in a personal injury case, and you would like your attorney to bring in an expert witness who can help solidify your argument. How exactly can you be certain that the person you’re asking to testify is qualified?

Included below are some things to look for in a good expert witness.

An Expert Witness Must Have the Relevant Credentials in His/Her Specified Field

They do not call them expert witnesses for nothing. First and foremost, you must be certain that the person you’re bringing in to testify has the proper credentials to their name.

You don’t want someone who will struggle to answer certain questions from an opposing attorney taking to the stand. In that scenario, the so-called expert witness may appear incompetent, and he/she may actively hurt your case.

Take the time to research your candidates for expert witnesses and see if they have the credentials necessary to back up any opinions they share during a trial.

Research in this context means diving deep into the expert’s body of work. Look up any articles or books they published previously and see how others receive them in the field. You can also try to talk to their colleagues and contemporaries to see if they are well-respected for their knowledge.

Keep an eye out for any public comments that the expert has issued previously. If those exist, check if their earlier opinions align with what you expect to hear in court.

Don’t forget about criminal records. Opposing attorneys may pounce on a blemish on the expert witness’ record as a reason to disregard their testimony. That may also negatively impact your argument.

Look for Experts Who Have Experience Testifying in Court

Many of us tend to overlook the fact that not everyone is comfortable in all settings. Someone can be a brilliant writer who puts together exquisite essays, and at the same time, struggles to speak in front of a crowd.

That is something to be mindful of as you go through the process of finding an expert witness. Even if you do manage to find a professional who has an encyclopedic knowledge of the topics relevant to your case, that person may not be comfortable taking the stand.

It would be counter-productive to put that kind of expert witness on the stand because he/she may be rendered unable to convey points clearly. Instead of helping to clear things up, the witness in question may cause more confusion.

Expert witnesses who have previous experience testifying in court are ideal. You can also try to find court opinions and learn more about what previous judges said about an expert witness your attorney is considering calling.

Knowledgeable testimony could be the key to you winning your case, but that hinges in large part on the analysis they are eloquently providing.

Why Is the Testimony of an Expert Witness Needed?

Is it worth your time to look for an expert witness? Can they be the reason you win your case? Those are important questions to address, and we’ll do exactly that in this section of the article.

They Will Let the Science Speak for Itself

Not all personal injury cases will require the involvement of an expert witness. If someone bumped into your car with cameras rolling and witnesses around, chances are the case will be pretty cut and dried.

As you may already know, though, things don’t always go that way. It doesn’t matter if the defendant knows they are guilty and that they should provide compensation. If they can find a way to avoid that responsibility, you can count on them trying to do exactly that.

That is where an expert witness can come in and help.

When two sides are making arguments, the expert witness can come in and talk from an unbiased perspective. They are not supposed to care about which side stands to gain from their testimony. Their role is to give science a voice in the proceedings and allow the chips to fall where they may.

Let’s provide an example here.

A defendant may try to claim that the reason you’re currently nursing a shoulder injury is because of your work as a handyman. The defendant may also say that the car accident he/she caused had nothing to do with the discomfort you are currently experiencing.

Naturally, you would argue against those claims.

It may be difficult for a judge and the jurors to decide who to believe in that scenario especially if they don’t know much about the nature of shoulder injuries.

An expert witness can change that by explaining how you sustain shoulder injuries, whether  your work as a handyman can be the cause of it, and what the impact from a collision can do as well. Expert witnesses can provide detailed testimony for a particular topic, and it will be difficult to counter what they say if they have all the credentials needed to reinforce their statements.

A case they once considered a toss-up could end up in your favor following the testimony of an expert witness.

They Can Help Calculate the Proper Amount of Compensation

The expert witness you call on to help can do more than tilt the case in your favor. The expert in question may also be instrumental in helping you receive the right amount of compensation.

You may see instances where they call expert witnesses to not discuss who is at fault in an accident but provide an idea of how much money a plaintiff should receive as a result of what happened. There must be compensation provided to address the pain and suffering you experience due to the accident and subsequent injury.

The witness may discuss how much it costs to treat an injury, and they will factor that into the calculation of your financial award.  They also may provide compensation that covers the treatment for mental trauma you are suffering from as a result of the accident. They may also take into consideration wages you will not earn because of your injury.

They could ask an expert to testify about how much a defendant should pay for any property damage caused.

Judges cannot pull those numbers out of thin air, which is why they may turn to the expert witnesses called to court for an idea of what amount can be deemed appropriate.

Note that the judge may also ask the defendant to pay punitive damages, but the testimony of the expert witness may no longer be needed to calculate that.

witness on stand

What Type of Expert Witness Do I Need?

There are different types of expert witnesses that you can call on to aid in your case. Make sure that you enlist the help of the right one so that your claims are stronger in court.

Medical Experts

Medical professionals are probably the experts most often called into court to offer their expert opinion on cases. You’ll see them ask surgeons and specialists to evaluate injuries and say how they think you sustained them.

They may ask experts with a medical background to check on the injured party or review some case files.

Mental Health Experts

Remember, the mental trauma from an accident is one of the factors they take into consideration when judges try to work out how much a plaintiff receives. It should come as no surprise that they may bring in mental health experts to talk about how the accident affected the plaintiff.

Financial Experts

The role of the financial expert is usually to assess how much a plaintiff receives due to their lost wages and any other benefits they will no longer obtain because of their injuries. The knowledge provided by a financial expert is particularly useful when trying to determine the lost wages of professionals who do not have fixed monthly salaries.

Medical, mental health, and financial experts are the ones who will appear most of the time in court as witnesses, but there are times when they bring in other knowledgeable individuals. They may ask people who specialize in manufacturing cars to testify if a safety feature of a vehicle did not deploy properly.

Are There Limitations on What an Expert Witness Can Do?

They ask expert witnesses to offer their opinion and analysis. On rare occasions, they may also provide some evidence if permitted.

What they cannot do, though, is to argue on your behalf or provide analysis that only favors you. Being impartial is essential for all expert witnesses, after all.

Because expert witnesses are supposed to be impartial, you cannot rely on them to help with your case. You cannot consult with them.

If you do want to consult with an expert as you and your attorney are putting together your case, it would be better to look for a different person.

How Do I Find an Expert Witness?

After determining that you do indeed need the services of an expert witness, you can start the process of finding that person. Ask your attorney if he/she has previously worked with an expert witness who can help with your case now.

If your attorney does not know anyone who fits the bill, calling around to other law firms may be helpful. Failing that, you can use directories and referral services to find people who have experience serving as expert witnesses.

Thanks to the internet, you and your lawyer should find a few people who can potentially help with your case.

Personal injury cases can be complex. You will need experts on your side to ensure that justice prevails, and we’re not only talking about expert witnesses here. Connect with lawyers who specialize in handling personal injury cases by getting in touch with Batta Fulkerson.