Expert Witnesses in Personal Injury Cases
Many personal injury cases are won or lost based on the testimony of an expert witness. They are usually the preferred method of proving damages. Sometimes, expert witnesses are required, such as in medical malpractice cases.
Expert witnesses testify at trial due to their expertise in a specific field. Their testimony is relevant to a fact a party is attempting to prove or disprove.
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What Are The Requirements For An Expert Witness?
A person must be qualified to be an expert witness.
Texas law only allows expert testimony under the following conditions:
- There must be facts in dispute that require relevant scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge;
- The expert witness has to demonstrate sufficient experience in their field, including knowledge, skill, training, and education; and
- The expert witness may only testify to facts within their particular field of expertise.
Expert witnesses not only testify to facts to support a party’s case – but they also may help to refute any conflicting testimony provided by the other party.
An expert may be needed to prove many compensatory damages, including:
- Pain and suffering
- Future medical expenses
- Diminished or lost earning capacity.
Specific expert witnesses are discussed below.
What Are Some Common Expert Witnesses?
From doctors to vocational experts, a wide array of experts are available to help prove facts important to a party’s case.
Testimony in the following fields by qualified experts is often critical to demonstrating the existence and extent of a plaintiff’s medical injuries:
- Neurology. Many vehicle accidents result in injuries to the brain, spinal cord, and surrounding nerves. A neurologist can testify about the severity of a person’s injuries and their anticipated future medical needs. Spinal cord injuries, for example, can require a lengthy recovery period.
- Oncology. Sometimes a victim is exposed to harm that can increase the chances of cancer. An oncologist is an expert in this field of medicine and testifies to long-term treatments, such as chemotherapy, surgery, or radiation therapy that the person needs.
- Orthopedics. These physician repairs abnormalities or injuries of the bones with surgery, casts, and braces. Common issues requiring an orthopedist include spinal injuries, joint surgeries, and other musculoskeletal problems. An orthopedist can testify about these issues and the future medical treatment anticipated.
- Pain Management. Many victims face a lifetime of chronic pain. This specialist testifies about the level of pain a person suffers and how it affects their life.
- Physical Therapy. Recovery from surgery can be a slow process, and some victims have permanently lost abilities or even a body part. A physical therapist or rehabilitation expert can testify about the person’s long-term need for rehabilitation, prosthetics, and anticipated costs.
- Toxicology. Unfortunately, many people are injured because another person is under the influence of alcohol, prescriptions, or illegal drugs. Adverse drug reactions, poisoning, and overdoses are all topics a toxicologist can testify about. They can also discuss the long-term health impacts of drugs.
Other medical experts include endocrinologists (hormone-related issues) and gastroenterologists (stomach and intestinal diagnoses).
Electronic Records Specialists
In today’s electronic age, computers store a vast quantity of data about everything. The trick is to get that data extracted from a device and into the jury’s hands.
The following may be relevant in a personal injury case:
- Cell Phone Records. An unnecessarily large number of accidents are caused by a person talking on their cell phone or texting. The cell phone tracks the time and details of this activity, which can be critical to determining whether talking or texting contributed to an accident. A technical expert can retrieve this data and testify about how they did it.
- ECU Specialist. For the past 25 years, most commercial trucks have come equipped with electronic control units (ECUs). These record data about speed, RPMs, and braking. While manufacturers first installed ECUs to protect themselves against engine warranty claims, they now can provide crucial information in personal injury cases. For example, an ECU can show that a driver was behind the wheel for too many hours before an accident or indicate that the truck was poorly maintained.
Other experts are available for retrieving deleted computer data and GPS data.
Transportation Safety Specialist
The modern vehicle has innumerable safety features built into them, such as airbags, early collision detection, and seatbelts. The transportation safety expert can testify about whether these features worked as designed or were properly maintained.
Vehicle Collision Reconstructionist
This expert is available for testimony about the most common personal injury occurrence – vehicle accidents. They can discuss vehicle crashworthiness, collision analysis, braking, and acceleration.
This professional provides testimony related to the labor market, job availability, and salaries. They study the medical impact of a person’s injury and determine how it affects their ability to work and the possible decreased compensation a person will earn due to a serious injury. They often work hand in hand with an economist.
The Right Expert for You
In a personal injury case, you need a lawyer for two main reasons. One, to settle or litigate your claims, and two, to know the right experts to hire to prove your damages.