Generally, an expert witness is anyone who has greater knowledge than the normal public. Their knowledge rises to the level to where they should be allowed to give an opinion in their field of expertise.
In the typical courtroom, anyone can testify about facts—what they saw, or what they heard. But you can’t give an opinion about something—what you think might have happened or what you think you may have seen or heard. To give an opinion, you have to be an expert.
Personal injury claims involve issues of damages, liability, proof and evidence. As personal injury attorneys, we work to establish the true value of our clients’ medical expenses, their loss of enjoyment of life, their reduced capability or total inability to work now and in the future, their cognitive capacity, as well as the causation and extent of their injuries and any other damages. All of these issues require the corroboration of expert witnesses.
What an Expert Witness Contributes to a Case
The typical expert you see in all personal injury cases is the medical doctor. Obviously a medical doctor is going to be a professional expert and in most cases can testify fully about his treatment of you and of your injury.
However, in many cases experts are retained by your lawyers to testify about your damages or your medical condition, yet he or she is not an actual treating physician.
Examples of such expert witnesses are:
- An economist who could talk about lost wages
- A vocational rehabilitation expert who might talk about ability or inability to return to work
- An accident reconstruction expert
- An expert on FDA regulations
- A hospital administration expert
- An automotive safety expert
- An orthopedic surgeon
- A biomechanical engineer
- A medical device design expert
With each of these experts, in each of these cases, typically each side challenges the other side’s experts, both in that the person is qualified to testify, and whether or not certain opinions are admissible. The video explains how this “gatekeeping” responsibility is placed on the judge—it is the judge who will decide whether someone is qualified to testify as an expert, and whether all or some of their opinions are admissible or not admissible. The selection of expert witnesses is one of the most important aspects of successful personal injury claims.
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