When you or someone you care about has been injured due to someone else’s negligence, it would be nice if the person or business at fault took full responsibility, but this generally isn’t what happens. Instead, in a personal injury case like that, the injured party has the “burden of proof.” That means that it is their responsibility to show that they suffered damages due to the defendant’s negligence. To make matters worse, Alabama has an outdated and unfair rule called “contributory negligence” that says that if a person is even 1% at fault in a wreck, they are treated by the law like they are 100% at fault and cannot recover.
Personal injury attorneys often turn to expert witnesses to help overcome these unfair laws by using them to explain more nuanced and complex elements of a case. The input and interpretation from an expert regarding complicated issues can be the difference between whether a person can recover or not.
What Qualifies a Witness as an “Expert”?
In personal injury cases, witnesses are generally put into two categories: lay and expert. By default, anyone who isn’t an “expert” is considered a lay witness. So, what makes a person an “expert”?
While there is no universal definition for this, there are certain factors that are used to qualify a person to testify or to serve in a consulting role in an injury case. These include that person’s skill, experience, knowledge, education, and training. Some of the things that might help qualify an expert witness include:
- Educational and professional experience,
- Publication in peer-reviewed journals, and
- Prior expert witness experience.
How Expert Witnesses Differ from Other Witnesses
An expert is considered a specialist in their particular field. For example, medical professionals such as neurologists, orthopedic surgeons, psychiatrists, and pharmacists have specialized experience and training that allows them to offer unique insights and explanations of a case’s more technical aspects.
Lay witnesses, on the other hand, can only offer testimony about their personal knowledge and perception of events. These are often people who witnessed the accident but who have no technical or expert knowledge. In disputed liability cases, lay witness testimony can be incredibly valuable, but it may need to be supplemented by expert testimony.
Experts are considered impartial to the outcome of the case and are granted more leeway in testimony than a lay witness. While lay witnesses can’t offer their opinions, an expert is asked to provide their opinion as long as:
- The opinion is based on data and facts,
- The expert’s specialized knowledge will be helpful to determine a fact or better understand evidence,
- Reliable methods were used to generate the opinion, and
- The expert reliably applied methods to the evidence and facts of the case.
How Expert Witnesses Help in Personal Injury Cases
Since experts have special knowledge or experience, they are considered a trusted source of information by many judges and juries. Some of the ways that these experts are used in personal injury cases include:
- Proving Negligence. The theory of negligence drives most personal injury lawsuits. This requires that you, as the plaintiff, show that the responsible party breached a specific responsibility or duty. In some cases, this is clear, and, in others, it becomes more complex. Expert witness testimony can help clarify such things as whether the defendant had a duty, what their responsibility to you was, and if their behavior breached that duty.
- Explain Complex Evidence. An expert can convey complex data that jurors might otherwise ignore in layman’s terms, so that is more valuable to your case.
- Clarify Damages. Since one of our goals is also to maximize your award for damages, experts such as physicians, vocational experts, and economists can testify about the severity and long-term financial impact of your injuries.
When Expert Witnesses Should Be Used
Expert witness testimony can be essential to a positive outcome in a personal injury case. While they pose an extra expense, this must be weighed against the potential cost of a lengthy trial or a lower settlement offer. At the Law Office of Troy King, we make a careful determination about the use of experts in each case we handle. Some of the respected experts that could benefit your case include:
- Accident reconstructionists
- Medical examiners
- Vocational experts
- Forensic evidence specialists
Were you injured in a Montgomery accident? If you or someone you love has been hurt, through no fault of your own, you may be entitled to compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. At the Law Office of Troy King, our focus is to hold the parties responsible for these injuries accountable while protecting the rights of accident victims like yourself.
Contact our office today at (334) 215-4440 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. We’ll thoroughly review your case, determine if expert witnesses would be appropriate, and outline a case strategy to help get you the full and fair compensation you need and deserve.