What is the Role of an Expert Witness in a Personal Injury Case?
The Role of Experts in Personal Injury Cases
Generally, there are two types of witnesses that may be involved with an accident case:
- Eyewitnesses who were present at the scene of the incident and have personal knowledge of what they saw or heard; and,
- Expert witnesses who may be hired by your attorney to assist with matters of proof.
An expert witness is a unique participant in the trial process because he or she did not actually “witness” anything related to the accident. Instead, these individuals help prove different elements of your case because they bring specialized knowledge to the table. Typically, they offer their services to support your attorney’s trial preparations as:
A consulting expert is often described as an extension of the law firm, assisting lawyers with developing trial strategy, reviewing documents, and providing other advice. Attorneys have education and experience in legal matters, but may require support when it comes to medical, technical, financial, and other topics.
This specialist will actually be called by your attorney as a witness at trial, to help explain complicated subjects in language that the jury or judge understand.
At times, a single individual may serve as both a consulting and testifying expert witness. Depending on the details of your case, there may be multiple experts involved – covering a number of different topics.
Accident Reconstruction Specialists
When there is a degree of speculation involving fault in the incident that caused your injuries, your lawyer may utilize an accident reconstruction specialist. These experts typically have backgrounds in physics and other fields that enable them to assess the science behind accidents. By using their own knowledge and the assistance of technology, accident reconstruction experts can establish links between actions, conditions, and fault.
An accident reconstruction specialist is especially useful considering the chaos and confusion that usually surround accidents. Drivers, passengers, and witnesses may not have a clear recollection of what happened or they may provide conflicting accounts of what they experienced. Alternatively, as in the case of the woman killed in the College Park accident, the primary witness may be unavailable.
Other Types of Experts
In addition to accident reconstruction experts, your attorney may also retain the services of other specialists, including:
Physicians and Medical Experts:
One of the most common types of experts in a personal injury case is a doctor, usually a specialist in a certain medical field. A physician may participate in your case to review your injuries and treatment, which is especially useful when your lawyer must establish proof for non-economic damages. It is hard to put a dollar value on pain and suffering, or quality of life; a doctor can use the information in your medical records, including details on procedures, surgeries, and prescriptions, to support your claim for these types of losses.
Mental Health Experts:
When your injuries have a significant emotional impact on your life, your attorney may use a mental health expert. These specialists can act as a consulting expert or testifying witness just as other physicians; however, the focus would be on how the accident and your injuries have resulted in emotional distress.
Actuaries and Financial Specialists:
Part of your claim in a personal injury matter may involve lost income if you are unable to work for health reasons. Proving your lost wages is not difficult in certain cases, such as when you are out of work for two weeks while you recover from your injuries: Your pay stubs can be used to establish your claim. However, your professional future may also be affected by your injuries. For example, if you are unable to ever return to work in a job that requires certain physical capabilities, or you suffered a brain injury that impacts your cognitive abilities, so you cannot return to a profession that requires mental skills, these are issues to which a financial expert can testify. These experts are useful in proving loss of future income that would otherwise be speculative and difficult to measure. Your amount of compensation will be higher when you can prove what you would have earned in wages had the accident never occurred.
Depending on the complexity of the evidence involved in your personal injury case, it is possible that your attorney will call upon one or more of these types of expert witnesses to assist. These specialists have meticulous skills in their respective areas of expertise, and they are able to take complicated subject matter and turn it into concepts that average people like those who may serve on a jury can comprehend. Of course, you can expect that the responsible party or insurance company will also retain experts to contest your allegations. For this reason, it is important to work with a knowledgeable attorney who has extensive experience utilizing experts, whether for consultation or to testify in court.
If you have been injured in an accident due to someone else’s negligence in Maryland, Washington D.C. or Virginia, please contact the Baltimore headquarters office Bob Katz Law. Our lawyers have access to a wide range of experts in different fields, and we retain these individuals as necessary to prosecute personal injury claims on behalf of our clients. We are happy to answer your questions or schedule an assessment to review the details of your case.