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Expert Witnesses: What They Mean to a Personal Injury Case

neon sign says "talk to the experts"

When you file a personal injury lawsuit, you must be prepared to prove your damages within a reasonable degree of certainty. This doesn’t mean picking a number that seems fair, or simply guessing what happened when the facts are in dispute. In many cases, expert witnesses are required to establish this type of proof.

What Are Expert Witnesses?

Expert witnesses are individuals who have scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge that will help a jury understand the evidence or determine a fact that is in dispute. In a personal injury case, several types of witnesses might be called to provide expert testimony:

  • Medical experts, who testify as to the injuries or illnesses suffered by the plaintiff, the disabilities that such conditions would cause, and whether the conditions are related to the accident in question.
  • Economists, who testify about the long-term losses an injury may have caused.
  • Accident reconstruction experts, who testify about how an accident likely happened, particularly when eyewitness testimony is unavailable, disputed, or otherwise questionable.
  • Vocational experts, who testify regarding how a plaintiff’s injuries will affect his earning capacity.
  • Construction and safety experts, who testify about the presence of unsafe conditions in slip-and-fall or premises-liability cases.

Why Is Expert Testimony Necessary?

When an issue or dispute is too complicated for the ordinary juror to understand, an expert is needed to explain complex concepts and provide opinions to the jury. Consider these examples:

  • Sometimes a person involved in an accident has a difficult time remembering exactly what happened, especially if they were severely injured. An accident reconstruction expert can help fill in the gaps.
  • Although an accident victim is aware of his injuries, a treating physician or medical expert can relate them to the accident in question, provide an opinion regarding the necessity of future medical treatment, and give the jury a concrete number regarding the likely cost of such treatment.
  • If a plaintiff is no longer able to perform the same work that he did before the injury or is unable to perform any work at all, vocational experts and economists can testify about how this will affect his future earning capacity and ability to support himself and his family for the remainder of his life.

Generally speaking, the more complex a personal injury case, the more expert witnesses will need to be called. If the plaintiff doesn’t call an expert witness to testify regarding complex issues, the court will generally not allow him to present such issues before the jury. And if those issues are not presented, a plaintiff’s ability to recover damages may be severely limited.

Image by Mai Le

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