When a case involves significant injury, and neither party admits to any wrongdoing, the best means of proof is through the use of an expert witness. An expert witness is one who has “scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge” who can assist a jury in understanding the evidence in a personal injury lawsuit. These experts are qualified by the court system through their academic training, board certification, or work experience, among other forms of credentials.
It is common, in the personal injury context, that the services of expert witnesses will be required by both parties to prove an element of their case. In order to be deemed an expert witness in any given field, the expert witness candidate must be qualified to render an opinion in the given field, and possess an opinion that is considered reliable in the particular field.
During the discovery and pre-trial preparation process, both parties must disclose the testimony of their respective expert witnesses before the expert is called to the stand during trial. This gives the other litigants the opportunity to depose the expert and to secure any rebuttal expert witness testimony if need be. Failure to disclose expert witness testimony in a timely and proper manner can lead to exclusion of the expert, or even more seriously, the dismissal or early disposition of the case, as a punitive measure.
Examples of Personal Injury Expert Witnesses
Due to the physical injuries at the core of a personal injury lawsuit, medical expert witnesses are nearly always an important part of the case for either party. In fact, the retention of a medical expert witness prior to a plaintiff even starting a suit is mandatory in some states. Examples of other commonly used expert witnesses include:
- Automotive, mechanical, or equipment engineers
- Accident reconstruction experts
- Law enforcement officers
- Forensic specialists
- Mental health experts and psychologists
- Product developers
- Psychiatrists or other medical professionals
An expert witness commonly used in serious injury cases on topics unrelated to how the accident happened is a life-care planning expert. This witness will assist the jury in understanding the future medical care the plaintiff will require and the subsequent costs. An economic loss expert can calculate a real dollar loss for a seriously injured person’s inability to return to work.