Personal injury attorneys rely on a network of professionals when creating persuasive and powerful arguments for their clients. Your lawyer will lead the investigation, research, and legal work that is relevant to your case. However, there are times when an attorney knows when to seek outside assistance.
No two personal injury cases are the same, and fully understanding a case may often require specialized knowledge. One case may be about a traumatic brain injury sustained during a car accident, while another may be about a slip and fall suffered by a restaurant patron. An attorney will gather the information that is relevant to proving why his or her client should be awarded compensation, but they may also call on an expert witness to help flesh out the details.
Expert witnesses can be crucial to the success of a personal injury case. Experts are treated differently than other witnesses. They are given more latitude and flexibility in what they are permitted to testify about in a case. The biggest difference between expert and “lay” witnesses is that experts are permitted to testify about their opinions. Personal injury cases, particularly those that involve uncommon or complicated injuries or causes, can benefit from an expert witnesses’ input.
What Makes Someone an Expert?
There is no firm definition for what an expert witness must be. There are no specific credentials, licenses, years of service, or education that a person must have to be accepted as an expert witness in a personal injury case. However, there are guidelines that have been established that help us understand who may or may not be an expert.
An expert witness is someone who has specialized and extensive knowledge, skill, experience, training or education in a particular field. When an expert is presented by an attorney, the opposing side (or the judge) is given the opportunity to test the expert’s knowledge of the field for which he is presented. This test, known as the Daubert Challenge, allows the court to determine if the witness has the necessary level of expertise that would allow them to provide meaningful and helpful testimony about a case.
When is Expert Testimony Helpful?
Expert testimony can be offered for a variety of reasons. If you are injured in an accident your attorney may want to present an expert witness to offer opinions about the severity of your injury, the cause of a malfunction or failure of a machine, the calculation of lost earnings, the costs associated with care required to recover from your injury, the mental health of an involved party, or the extent of property damage or loss. Expert testimony may not always be necessary, but it can be helpful in explaining complex ideas, theories, or evidence to a judge or jury.
Federal Rule of Evidence 702 establishes when expert testimony may be offered. An expert, who is approved by the court, may offer scientific, technical, or specialized knowledge that will assist the judge or jury to understand the evidence or determine a fact in issue. This testimony may be given only when:
- it is based on sufficient facts and data;
- it is the product of established methods; and
- the methods have been applied reliably to the facts of the case.
So, an expert witness may testify when they have specialized knowledge that can help a judge or jury understand an important piece of evidence or issue in a case, so long as the knowledge is based on sufficient facts and accepted methods of evaluation.
How Does an Attorney Choose the Right Expert Witness?
How will your attorney choose an expert witness to offer testimony in your personal injury case? Attorneys establish relationships with experts in many fields that may be relevant to personal injury cases they handle. Specialized medical professionals, real estate appraisers, mental health experts, meteorologists, accident scene recreationists, ballistics experts, forensic technicians, vocational experts, and forensic accountants are all examples of professionals with whom your personal injury attorney may have standing relationships. These professionals can offer valuable insight that can help to explain why evidence may or may not be important, or to prove or disprove a theory your attorney has formulated.
When your attorney chooses an expert witness to consult with or testify on your behalf, he or she may consider:
- Professional credentials;
- Years of professional experience;
- Supervisory experience;
- Current and prior participation in his or her field of expertise;
- Public speaking ability;
- Teaching experience;
- Reputation in his or her field of expertise; and
- Prior expert testimony experience.
Each of these factors can help to strengthen the expert’s credibility and the value that is given to their testimony. The more credible the expert witness, the greater the chance of making an impact on your personal injury case.
If you have been injured in a California accident you should not hesitate to contact a qualified personal injury attorney at Citywide Law Group. The sooner you contact an attorney, the sooner we can begin to work on recovering compensation you need and deserve. At Citywide Law Group, we have established relationships with a broad network of relevant personal injury experts. These experts help to supplement the extensive legal research and strategizing we do for our clients. Contact our office today to schedule your free, no-commitment consultation.