The personal injury claims process can become highly involved. After hiring an attorney, you’ll likely provide statements and information about the details of your accident. Your attorney may also review police reports and talk to others who were at the scene of the accident. You may even hear your lawyer talk about the possibility of retaining an expert witness to help your case. What is an expert witness, and why are they so important to your case?
What Is an Expert Eye Witness?
As the name implies, an expert witness differs from a lay witness in terms of training. There is no single definition of what makes a witness an “expert,” but your attorney will take factors like knowledge, experience, training, skill, and education into account. Some other things that might qualify a witness as an expert include:
- Prior experience as an expert witness
- Professional and educational experience
- Publication in peer-reviewed journals
Expert witnesses have applicable, specialized training and experience that allows them to offer qualified insight into a case. Lay witnesses offer facts on a case based on what they see and observe; they’re limited to personal perceptions. Expert witnesses, on the other hand, have more leeway when it comes to their testimony. They can offer an opinion of a technical, scientific, or specialized nature if and when:
- The knowledge will be helpful to the judge or jury to understand the context of the case
- Their opinion is based on facts and data
- They formulated their opinion based on reliable data, which they applied reasonably to the case
Since experts can offer their opinions without having observed the incident, their testimony can be both informative and persuasive. There are rules, however, about retaining expert witnesses.
Expert witnesses often become centerpieces of medical malpractice cases. However, your medical expert will depend on the nature of your case. For example, if you are pursuing a case against an anesthesiologist for an error, your medical expert must have similar training and experience. This means he or she must be another attending anesthesiologist, in the same sub-specialty, if applicable. In other words, a family practice doctor or surgeon won’t cut it.
How Does an Expert Witness Help The Case?
An expert witness provides valuable assistance in the following ways:
- He or she helps establish negligence. Personal injury cases rely on the concept of negligence, which requires that a plaintiff proves that the defendant breached a duty or responsibility. An expert witness can help establish both how the defendant had a duty and how he or she breached it. In medical malpractice, for example, an expert witness may show how the defendant breached his or her duty of care by deviating from a current standard of practice.
- He or she provides clarification of the evidence. Personal injury lawsuits are highly complex and involve a lot of evidence. Some of it is easy for a jury to interpret, some require additional explanation. Toxicology reports, for example, benefit from an expert witness who can attest to the process of screening and can analyze the results.
- Impartial testimony provides credence to your case. When you testify about your own personal injury lawsuit, the jury knows that you have a personal stake in the outcome. Expert witnesses, on the other hand, do not have any personal attachments to the case so they will not seem biased. Juries respect the authority and impartiality of an expert witness, which can help your case.
Though the process of gathering evidence and witness testimony for your case can be confusing, it’s to your benefit. Expert witnesses could prove invaluable to your personal injury claim.