Expert witnesses are often critical to the success of a personal injury or wrongful death case. An expert is someone with a particular level of education, training, or experience that enables them to render an opinion regarding the level of care or negligence exercised by the defendant in a particular case. Many types of cases can benefit from the use of expert testimony, such as the following:
Medical Malpractice – In most cases of medical malpractice, the injured plaintiff is required to consult with an expert before the case is filed or soon thereafter, although this is not necessary if the case is premised on the legal concept of res ipsa loquitor. Regardless, expert testimony will still be required at trial in most instances. An expert witness in a medical malpractice case may be a doctor or surgeon with experience in the same field as the defendant, or perhaps a medical expert who has taught or published articles on the particular type of injury at issue. The medical expert is needed to explain what the appropriate standard of care is in a given situation and express an opinion whether the defendant followed or deviated from that standard.
Motor Vehicle Accidents – Accident reconstruction experts, often current or former police officers who have training and experience investigating car crashes, can be persuasive in helping the jury decide who was at fault in an accident, including critical factors such as the speed of a vehicle, the direction it was traveling, who was behind a wheel and who was only a passenger, etc.
Slip and Fall Accidents – Experts are often called in premises liability cases to give an expert opinion on how long a food or drink spill or other dangerous condition existed before the accident occurred. An experienced restaurant or supermarket manager can describe the industry standard for making periodic inspections, identifying and removing dangerous conditions, or warning the public before an accident happens.
Catastrophic Injuries – The costs of a catastrophic injury can be significant, and it often takes one or more experts to assist in calculating those costs and explaining them to a jury. Economists, physiatrists and medical or rehabilitation specialists, and certified life care planners may all have a role to play in preparing and presenting the case.
Insurance Bad Faith – A claim of insurance bad faith contains both objective and subjective elements, and the testimony of someone experienced in the insurance industry can help to shed light on whether an insurance company’s behavior is reasonable or outside the bounds of industry standards.
Choosing an Expert
Although expert witnesses are giving their opinion about the facts, it is important that their testimony not be simply conclusory. It should be based on specific scientific data or analysis and involve a thorough and careful review of the case. Before an expert may testify, he or she must be qualified by the court as an expert. But selecting the right expert is more than just finding someone with the credentials to qualify as an expert. The expert’s demeanor on the witness stand and ability to communicate and convey meaningful information to the jury in an authoritative and persuasive way is critical. Part of the attorney’s job is choosing the right expert and working with that person in preparing for trial and during trial so that the testimony is powerful and compelling.
Using an expert witness can strengthen your case and make an impact on jury deliberations. It may be an important part of your lawyer’s overall trial strategy. If you need legal representation in a New York personal injury or wrongful death matter, contact Leandros A. Vrionedes, P.C. for a free consultation.