Expert witnesses can offer specialized testimony and provide a deeper knowledge of issues that appear in a trial. They are generally needed to assist a jury or judge in establishing facts that are too complex or convoluted to be sorted out on their own. They are especially necessary in cases such as medical malpractice and toxic tort litigation. However, there is much wider range of knowledge that may be needed to resolve issues in personal injury claims. This article will address some of the more common types of expert testimony that may be needed.
First of all, what constitutes expert testimony? Despite what is generally assumed, an expert witness need not be someone with advanced education. The standards for expert witnesses are covered under the Federal Rules of Evidence 702. Many state rules of evidence mirror the federal rules. An expert witness can testify if:
- They have the relevant skills, knowledge, education, training, or experience in the area where they are expected to testify
- The scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact;
- The witness can offer testimony based upon sufficient facts and data, based upon reliable principles and methods, and will be able to reasonably apply that expertise to the facts and circumstances in the case.
Anyone with specialized knowledge that is necessary to the case can be deemed an expert witness. In personal injury, the most common expert witnesses are:
- Doctors. In most cases the plaintiff is putting their physical health at issue. This requires the verification of the physical ailments by a doctor. In some cases the defense may also need to present their own expert doctor to refute the findings by the plaintiff.
- Accident reconstruction specialists. These specialists are commonly used in disputed motor vehicle accidents.
- Economists. Economists can testify about the value of damages awarded in a case and provide a basis for awards that are not easy to ascertain.
- Mechanics. Especially in motor vehicle accident claims, they can provide a basis for awards for damages to motor vehicles.
There are numerous experts for almost any type of issue that may present itself at trial. There are many companies available with websites. It is important to not only find a reputable service but to find a reputable expert witness within that service. Many attorneys already have relationships with reputable experts and such experts usually feel more comfortable working with attorneys. It is highly advisable to seek the counsel of an attorney as cases that need expert witnesses are generally more complex than the average case and there are many issues of law that must be mastered.
This article is for general informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. Do not rely on the above information as all cases are different and different laws apply to different cases. Consult an attorney in your area for further guidance.