Using Expert Witnesses in a Personal Injury Claim

While some personal injury claims are pretty clear-cut, others face a variety of challenges that can make proving the case difficult. It could be there isn’t sufficient evidence available or it’s necessary to strengthen the facts of a case. For these and many other reasons, it may be helpful to utilize an expert witness.

What is an expert witness?

Witnesses are oftentimes used in personal injury cases to help substantiate the claim. An expert may provide testimony regarding the circumstances under which the claimant was injured. This may help prove that the defendant’s negligence caused an accident. Or an expert may verify the nature, extent and severity of injuries and other types of damages.

What makes a witness an expert is her skill and experience in a particular area for which testimony is given. Qualifications may be based on experience, training, and/or education. Experts should be reliable and unbiased. Testimony should be relevant to the case.

What types of expert witnesses might I use in a personal injury case?

The type of expert witness used in a case depends on the particulars of the claim. Common in many personal injury cases is a medical expert, who can testify regarding the extent of a claimant’s injuries.

A medical expert may also testify regarding a doctor’s care and treatment, providing insight into whether the physician acted negligently. Further, a medical expert may also provide testimony regarding cause-and-effect in medical malpractice cases. In a case involving a traffic collision, an accident reconstruction expert may be called upon to testify regarding fault.

Besides medical experts and accident reconstructionists, other types that may be utilized include:

  • mental health experts;
  • document examiners;
  • engineers; and
  • forensic accountants.  

How can an expert witness support or prove a personal injury case?

An expert witness can help lay out the facts of a case. Using her specialized, technical, medical or scientific knowledge, she is able to form an opinion or provide information (data, statistics, figures) based on the particular circumstances of the case.

For instance, a medical expert may be necessary to establish the severity of injuries. If an injured person claims to be permanently disabled and is facing a lifetime of physical challenges, an expert may help establish this. Or an expert can testify to the limitations an injured victim is facing regarding his or her ability to perform daily tasks such as grooming, eating and dressing.

Another example would be calling upon a mental health expert to prove emotional harm as a result of a disfiguring injury. An accident reconstruction expert is another type that can help show how a crash occurred. Expert testimony can help establish issues about which there is uncertainty or a dispute  such as those regarding speed, visibility and other causal factors.

How can claimants hire an expert witness?

It’s important to interview an expert to determine her qualifications, past experience in testifying and ability to provide relevant facts and/or opinions to the case. Although some claimants may do this without help, it’s usually best to seek legal counsel.

In fact, an attorney should handle any case challenging or complicated enough to require an expert witness. It may be that the injuries sustained were significant, there is a dispute concerning fault or evidence appears to be weak. For these reasons an attorney may decide that an expert witness is necessary.

Most law firms have used experts in the past. An attorney will know what type to hire. The lawyer should notify the client of this intention so they can discuss the pros and cons of hiring one. Additionally, the client should be able to research the witness to ensure utilization of a credible expert.

If you have questions about your legal case and wish to pursue compensation for your damages, call Cordisco & Saile LLC at 215-642-2335.