Expert Witnesses in a Personal Injury Case

December 2, 2016 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
Expert Witnesses in a Personal Injury Case

Personal injury law often relies on the information provided by experts from many different fields to support an injured victim's case. When the unfortunate event of an injury arises, a professional may be the only one who can prove an injury was caused by negligence, how the injury will affect the injured party's life, or how severe the injury is.

Experts can offer testimony that is more reputable and detailed than just any common person who may be involved in the case; and courts can hardly just take the word of the attorney who has a vested interest in winning the case for their client. This is where expert witnesses come into play. They have an area of expertise and hold themselves to high ethical standards. For this reason, their word holds significant weight.

Experts are useful when some aspect of the accident or injury is disputed in a personal injury case. For example, the opposing party may dispute that a T-bone accident isn't likely to have caused a person's whiplash; but an expert witness on spinal injury or accident reconstruction could testify to the contrary. An injury attorney may also use a medical expert to testify that a certain brain injury is likely to cause specific future damages, like the inability to remember dates and names. This type of information could be very useful when trying to prove that one quality of life is, and will be affected, by the injury.

In personal injury lawsuits, it's always the responsibility of the injured party (and, of course, their attorney) to prove to a judge or jury that the accident caused the injuries. The defendant (most often in the form of an insurance company) has no obligation to prove that the accident didn't cause the injury. One must also prove that the injury caused damages and that they deserve compensation for those damages. Experts help to prove these things. Expert witnesses, of course, are not free and do cost a considerable amount of money, but their testimony could be the difference between a large settlement and no settlement at all. The attorneys at Dolman Law Group will guide you through the need, hiring, and utilization of an expert witness.

More than one expert witness may be called to provide testimony in a personal injury case. And since the plaintiff can call expert witnesses to support their case, it only stands to reason that the defense can also in order to refute the plaintiff's claim.

Expert witnesses have a high degree of skill in their fields. They have the understanding and practical experience to deliver reliable information regarding their specialties, which can range from the medical field to engineering, from accident reconstruction experts to experienced specialists.

Role of Witnesses

In personal injury cases, general witnesses may be called to help provide clarity on certain contested issues in the case. Not all witnesses are expert witnesses. For example, a bystander who saw your accident and how it occurred would most likely be called to corroborate the story of the injured party.

The role of an expert witness is much different. An expert witness is a professional who has specific technical and/or scientific knowledge in a particular subject area. This subject is one that has special significance to certain events in the case that have been called into question. Since expert witnesses are busy professionals (and generally not cheap) they are only used when the contested issue they can clarify is extremely pertinent to the outcome of the case.

It may sound confusing to call these people expert witnesses, since they probably didn't witness the actual event that led to the claim. Instead, they're permitted to testify because they can add important information to the case which will shed light on some unclear circumstance. The court, after all, is interested in getting to the truth and the truth only. Because of the nature and credibility of the information they provide, their testimony is often key in the determination of the case.

Different Types of Expert Witnesses

There are different classifications and different types of expert witnesses. The classification of an expert witness differentiates between whether the expert is brought into the case as a consulting expert or as a testifying expert.

Consulting experts do just what their name implies. They help to explain and clarify key issues regarding the case in order to help the attorney understand a situation more clearly. Although personal injury attorneys are well-versed in many of the medical and technical areas that affect their field of law, they are not doctors or physicists. That is why they bring in outside help.

Consulting experts don't actually testify in open court. However, the information they provide can be vital to the case because they are able to explain complex issues to the attorneys who can then use that knowledge to support their case.

A testifying expert is someone who will actually deliver testimony in the courtroom in front of the judge or jury. For this reason, they are often skilled in not only their area of expertise, but also in delivering the information in an easily accessible way. They must be able to communicate their ideas effectively to the deciding audience. Sometimes, an expert may be both a consulting witness and a testifying expert. They will privately consult with the attorney about certain facts of the case, and then also present the relevant information they are there to provide to the judge or jury.

The classification of an expert witness can be important because of the rules of witness discovery. This means that the information shared by a testifying expert is able to be discovered by the other side (meaning the defense attorney will have access to the exact information they provide so that they can prepare a rebuttal). The information that a consulting witness provides is not discoverable.

Types of Expert Witnesses

Within these two group of classifications, there are specific types of expert witnesses. They are:

Medical Experts

Medical experts testify about the victim's specific injury or injuries, their prognosis and recovery options, and their treatment information. If it applies, they will also provide their expert opinion on how the injury will affect the victim for a certain time period or for the rest of their life. In medical malpractice cases, a medical expert is almost always necessary to testify about the normal standard of care and how the defendant deviated from this standard. Because medical malpractice cases revolve completely around the idea of what a typical doctor would do, it is critical to have a doctor from that field to testify; they are often credible and well-reputed in their field. Medical experts will most likely not be the injured person's regular or primary care doctors or health providers, but rather ones that examine them after the case starts. Once they complete a series of examinations they then offer independent reports and opinions about the victim's injuries. They may do this on a consulting and/or testifying basis. Medical experts could be specialists, such as orthopedic surgeons, or more general practitioners; this greatly depends on the needs of the case.

Mental Health Experts

Mental health experts most often testify or consult about how the accident has affected the mental and emotional state of the injured person. This testimony may be used to support claims for compensation of pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, or loss of normal functions.

They most likely provide expert, medically-backed information about things like post-accident PTSD, the emotional trauma of dealing with a disability, or how the injury will temporarily or permanently affect the victim's psyche.

Accident Reconstruction Experts

Accident reconstruction experts specialize in helping law enforcement agencies and attorneys reconstruct accidents. These experts have training in investigating accidents in order to unravel the sequence of events that resulted in an accident. They then use that information to reconstruct exactly how the accident happened. This is often done with drawings, models, and special computer programs. They can also determine the physics of the accident, presenting such information as the speed the vehicle was traveling, the force of impact, and the direction everything was moving. This information helps establish the link between the accident and the victim's injuries. The accident reconstruction expert's visual account of the accident plays a big role in helping the jury to understand the facts of the case. Seeing the accident happen in more tangible 3D model is much easier for a jury to understand than just simply asking them to imagine what happened.

Economics Experts

In a personal injury case, the plaintiff is claiming that their injury(s) has affected their ability to earn a living, pay for expenses, and/or live a comfortable life from that point on. An economics expert can testify about how exactly the injury has and will affect the economic prospects of the client. For example, this includes things like the value of future wages the injured victim might have earned if not for their injury. This type of testimony can be critical in supporting a claim for compensation of lost wages.

Engineering Experts

Engineering experts may be used in rare cases to testify about how a building was not properly constructed or how a roadway's engineering led to the accident. For this reason, they may be used mostly in motor vehicle accident and premises liability cases.

Manufacturing Experts

Manufacturing experts testify about how a particular part or product was defective and how it led to the injury. This may be for an automotive part that failed and led to an accident, or a toy that was improperly designed causing it to catch fire. These experts, like engineering experts, are not used often, but when their services are needed, their testimony can be critical in proving that a product's manufacturing led to a victim's injury.

Specialized experts

Anyone who has a particular skill set may be used as a consulting or testifying expert witness, if their area of expertise serves the case. Accidents, and their resulting injuries, can happen in almost any way and any place. For this reason, specialized experts may be necessary to prove liability, fault, and causation in any number of specific circumstances. As long as an individual has a proven expertise in an area that is relevant to the case, their testimony is considered valid and may be used by an attorney. This, of course, would be dependent on the judge's permission.

Importance of Expert Witnesses in Personal Injury Cases

In many personal injury cases, bringing in an expert witness(es) is not necessary. However, in certain cases, the validity of the injury and its damages may greatly benefit from doing so. If the situation is right, a victim may receive a number of benefits by retaining an expert witness. This is because of the greater credibility that expert witnesses provide to claims and the way in which they can explain complex issues in easy-to-understand ways.

Dolman Law Group

The attorneys at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA will help you to decide if consulting with an expert witness is in your best interest and what benefits may result. For this reason, it is essential to have an experienced attorney working to ensure that you will receive every compensation available, and that every effort is made to prove your case.

If you or a loved one has been injured due to someone else's negligence, contact the Dolman Law Group today for a free consultation. We are more than happy to consult with you about your case and to provide you with a look at your options and potential next step. Call us today at (727) 451-6900 or send us an email using our contact us page.

Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765

(727) 451-6900


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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