You’ve been hurt because of someone else’s negligence. But how do you get a jury to understand how the other person was negligent and why they should be paying your medical bills? When it comes to understanding how accidents occur, how different injuries can impact the human body, how your work has changed since the accident, or other complex topics, you need an expert.
While your lawyer could explain these topics to the jury, expert witnesses have more in-depth knowledge in explaining their field to laypeople. Furthermore, they have credibility that comes from their education and work experience.
What Expert Witnesses Do
If your attorney decides to use one or more expert witnesses in your case, you can expect them to play a fairly important role in your case. Complicated cases can often be challenging for jury members to understand. Consider, for example, a car accident in which you’re thrown from the vehicle into the side of a building. Explaining the physics of being thrown from a vehicle and the force of crashing into a building at high speed is a big task, and that type of information is often best explained by experts.
An expert witness uses their education and professional experience to explain challenging topics to jury members in a way they understand. They are subject to questioning both by your attorney and the other side’s attorney.
To get called as an expert witness, an individual must have qualifications that will impress a jury and give them credibility in the eyes of jury members. Generally, expert witnesses have an advanced degree related to the subject they are testifying about. Additionally, they often have years (if not decades) of relevant work experience.
For example, think about a medical expert being called to testify about a victim’s injuries after a slip and fall. An attorney might call an orthopedic MD who has spent the last 20 years helping to rehabilitate patients with broken or crushed bones. They are less likely to call an RN of two years who has worked with patients with broken bones in the emergency room. Usually, the more qualifications an expert witness has, the better.
Qualifications can cut both ways. On the plaintiff’s side, they lend credence to their claims. However, if the opposing side can poke holes in the expert’s knowledge and experience, the case could fall apart. If the expert witness has no direct experience in injuries similar to yours, has been discredited by prior testimony that was proven incorrect, or has not worked in the field in years, their credibility could be weakened or eliminated.
Types of Expert Witnesses
The expert witness that your attorney calls will depend largely on what aspect of your claim is complex. Common types include:
- Accident reconstruction expert. Accident reconstruction experts have in-depth knowledge about how vehicles function on different types of roads, in various types of weather, and in extreme circumstances. They also understand physics and how to read evidence to figure out exactly how a crash occurred. They often analyze electronic data pulled from vehicles, images, crash scenes, and medical records.
- Medical expert. A medical expert often speaks to an individual’s injuries, their long-term prognosis, what assistance they may need in the future, and how much care their injuries will require.
- Neurologist. In TBI cases, a neurologist may be called upon to provide insight about the severity of a victim’s traumatic brain injury and the likelihood of a full recovery. They may use brain scans and other images to explain the extent of brain damage and show how it impacts daily life.
- Vocational specialist. If a victim’s ability to work is impacted by an accident, a vocational specialist may be brought in to explain how an individual’s work duties are affected by their injuries. They can use this information to extrapolate lost potential earnings/
- Engineer. If a claim is related to faulty products or mechanical failures, an engineer or designer could provide useful information about why a design was flawed or how an accident occurred.
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