It has to be kept in mind that an expert’s word can carry a good deal of weight with a jury. Proper silence is maintained when an accident reconstruction expert describes the various stages and causes of a certain accident. Experts focus on uncovering various details that are too intricate for common people to notice. When you have a good expert, it can put a good deal of pressure on the other side to settle. However, when an expert witness is not the right one, it tends to dampen your client’s case. Thus, it is more than important to choose the right expert witnesses.
What type of expert do you need?
In general, there are two major categories of experts. A consulting expert usually helps counsel figure out various technical issues in the case when a testifying expert provides an opinion to the factfinder. This distinction is highly important since the opposing side will be entitled to depose a testifying expert.
When you have determined whether you need a consulting or testifying expert, you should determine the subject matter for which you need the expert. Here are some of the more common types of subject matter expert witnesses who are right for personal injury cases.
In general, medical experts testify about the nature of the plaintiff’s injuries. Also, they check whether the defendant’s conduct gave way to them. There are many medical experts who personally examine the injured party. However, in certain cases, they do not really review the medical file. In most medical malpractice cases, medical experts provide opinions about the standard of care to which other healthcare providers need to be held.
There are many mental health experts who perform a role similar to medical experts in cases where the injury is mental/emotional. Also, they may be used to support claims for emotional distress, pain and suffering and several other noneconomic damages.
There are many accident reconstruction experts who tend to piece together certain events that gave way to an accident. If the plaintiff was injured in an accident, an accident reconstruction expert is likely to recreate a version of what happened.
There are many science and engineering experts who go ahead and address matters relevant to the accident case. Vocational rehabilitation experts provide opinions about the future work prospects of an accident-disabled party and several other issues. Financial experts focus on matters that are related to damages. Also, they help in computing their present value.
You must look into statutes and court rules in your jurisdiction which impose certain expert witness requirements in specific types of cases. There are some states that have adopted medical malpractice laws that tend to restrict who can testify as an expert. Also, you can keep in mind Federal Rule of Evidence 702 and some state rules that actually govern the admissibility of expert witness testimony.
How to find an expert witness?
There are some top approaches to find an expert witness. The common ones include asking other personal injury lawyers, making use of lawyer listservs or other interactive forums, looking for personal injury case law with the help of the keyword “expert” for mentions of certain expert witnesses, etc.
There are some websites that list available expert witnesses. You can come across various expert referral services here. However, these can turn out to be expensive.
When you have already identified an individual to be your expert, go ahead and perform due diligence. It will cause harm to your case if the judge figures out that your testifying expert has inflated certain credentials.
Some top steps to vet an expert witness are checking for conflicts of interest; verifying the expert’s curriculum vitae; look for court opinions that mention the expert to see what the judge says about him/her; assess the expert’s published books/articles; skim the expert’s social media comments; call other lawyers who have used the expert before etc.
Role of an expert witness
Even if the facts of your injury case seem pretty simple and direct to you, there could be certain complexities. These complexities might make it difficult to get full and fair compensation when your injury case is presented to a judge/jury. An expert witness can go ahead and testify on your behalf to offer specific technical knowledge about your injury case. Dissimilar to the basic witness, the expert might not have seen the accident actually happen. However, they are allowed to testify since they have the ability to add valuable info to the injury claim on the basis of their experience and knowledge. This can enable cases to resolve faster. Also, one can ensure that the appropriate amount of compensation is awarded.
What are the various types of Expert Witnesses?
In general, there are two major types of witnesses. One is consulting witnesses and the other one is testifying experts. A consulting witness is one who is able to help explain various facts of a case. This set of individuals usually does not testify in court. A testifying expert offers testimony in front of a judge or jury. For any personal injury case, you might think of looking for a testifying expert who fits into a certain category of experts.
This person can testify about the nature of a plaintiff’s injuries for proving that the defendant caused them. They may go ahead and conduct an official examination. Also, they can review their medical file.
Accident Reconstruction Expert
In certain situations, it can be hard to determine how an accident actually happened. An accident reconstructionist can decide to piece together the specifics of a certain event to figure out a timeline.
Mental Health Expert
A mental health expert can assess the mental state of the plaintiff as well as determine how the accident affected their psyche. This can be used to calculate pain as well as suffering damages.