Why is expert testimony so important in personal injury and negligence cases?
For one, the outcome of many personal injury cases comes down to evidence – specifically, which side has the most convincing evidence. But what happens when two sides present two different explanations for the same evidence? Who’s to be believed?
An expert is a trusted source with technical, scientific, or specialized knowledge that judges and juries can rely on when their own expertise, knowledge, or understanding falls short.
Expert witnesses help shed light on complicated facts and provide context for evidence that would otherwise be hard to analyze or meaningless to a regular person or judge. As a result, witness testimony by an expert can heavily influence how a neutral third party thinks about your case. Lawyers and insurance companies know this, which is why they find experts who are more likely to support their side of the argument.
If you have a personal injury case based on technical or specialized knowledge, you may be required by the court to produce an expert witness to break down your claims. Some cases are ultimately determined by a battle of experts, where expert testimony becomes the main reason for swaying the judge or jury’s decision one way or the other.
An experienced personal injury lawyer should have experts on call to testify for their clients when necessary. But not all experts are created equal. Your attorney should help you find the right type of expert – one whose testimony will be the most convincing to the court.
What Are the Benefits of an Expert Witness?
When you bring a decorated expert into a courtroom, you add credibility – or believability – to your case. Witness testimony is only as strong as the witness is credible.
That means if you have an expert with decades of specialized experience testifying on your behalf, that’s way more convincing to a judge or jury than just taking you or your lawyer at your word. The more solid your expert’s credentials and the more appealing their presentation to the court, the greater the benefit you’ll get from their testimony.
Good expert testimony usually requires your lawyer to coach the witness on the best way to present their knowledge to the court to support your case.
For example, an expert may have the most impressive credentials and the most convincing argument on their side, but their testimony won’t be effective if they can’t communicate their points clearly to people without the same specialized knowledge. In other words, an expert who puts the jury to sleep isn’t going to win you any cases.
On the other hand, some expert witnesses have significant experience testifying in court and depositions throughout their careers, which can be a huge benefit to your case. These witnesses are more likely to excel on the stand and under cross-examination.
What Purpose Do Expert Witnesses Serve in Personal Injury Lawsuits?
Personal injury cases usually benefit from testimony by licensed medical experts such as doctors, surgeons, physical specialists, and mental health professionals.
These medical experts can help your case by testifying about:
- The severity of your injuries and the intensity of the treatment you’ll need
- Whether your injury will require long-term care, what type of care, and for how long
- How much pain and suffering you actually experienced as a result of your injuries
- Whether you can expect to make a total recovery from your injuries or not
You may benefit from having more than one medical expert testify on your behalf, especially if your injuries involve multiple complications or different areas of medicine, such as neurology, physical or occupational therapy, orthopedics, or psychiatry. Your lawyer can help you determine which experts would best benefit the specific facts of your case.
When Is Expert Testimony Important in Accident Cases?
Traffic accidents may seem simple enough when they happen, but you may be surprised by what insurance companies might do to try to avoid paying your claims. Expert testimony can help stop these underhanded strategies from derailing your claims.
In traffic accident cases, you may get:
- Engineering experts to testify about the conditions at the time of the accident, including whether the roadways were properly maintained
- Traffic accident experts to recreate the scene or events of the accident
- Manufacturing experts to explain how an auto part was defective
- Economic experts to testify on the likely financial impact of the accident
Not every piece of evidence needs expert testimony. Your lawyer’s job is to figure out which experts you need and how to best use the expert testimony you have to your advantage.
What Types of Evidence Can Expert Witnesses Rely On?
Experts can present three different types of testimony:
- Factual expert testimony involves an expert with specialized knowledge giving their opinion on facts presented in your case that fall under their expertise.
- Expert summarization involves a big-picture analysis of your case where the expert guides the judge or jury on what the evidence implies and how to understand it.
- Opinion or inference-based expert testimony involves the expert making inferences based on their specialized knowledge or the scientific method. So the expert witness isn’t necessarily speaking about the specific facts in your case, but making general statements about your situation based on their observations and expertise.
How Do You Choose an Expert Witness for Your Case?
Choosing the right expert is critical to establishing the credibility and believability of their testimony. Your attorney should consider the following when choosing experts:
- Their educational background, experience, and tenure
- Their professional background, credentials, certificates, or awards
- Authorship of peer-reviewed journal articles in their field
- A favorable reputation (i.e., no criminal convictions for fraud, etc.)
- How much experience they have testifying as an expert witness
Fortunately, you don’t have to find expert witnesses yourself. An experienced lawyer should have a network of experts they can call to support your claims. At the Sepulveda Law Group, we recently had an expert’s testimony play a critical role in turning the tide in a case.
Think your case needs an expert? Click here to contact our talented team of lawyers now.