In personal injury cases, expert witnesses are almost always vital to the success of a case. Not only must we, as Plaintiff’s lawyers, meet our burden as prescribed by the law, but we must also make information accessible for judges and juries. To do this, expert witnesses, who are specialists in their fields, will provide reports and testimony in cases to give support for theories and to answer questions that may be unclear from the facts.
What is an Expert Witness?
Expert witnesses are specialists in their particular field who review information from a case, form one or multiple opinions to satisfy the elements of a cause of action, and give their reasoning in a written report or through testimony. Expert witnesses are different than eyewitnesses – although experts were not present for an accident, a surgery, or in a patient’s recovery, they can provide context and useful information for a judge or jury to decide on a complicated issue. For example, following a trucking accident, it was found that the road’s incline was not properly marked by the state’s transportation department. At trial, Plaintiff’s counsel intends to present this issue to the jury but will need an expert to review the facts, come to this opinion on his or her own accord, and present this information in context. Therefore, counsel will reach out to an expert on transportation regulations related to road signage and an expert on the inclination of roadways to present this theory.
Types of Expert Witnesses for Personal Injury Cases
For every type of personal injury case, there are an endless number of experts who are specialists in their fields to choose from. Experienced litigators will have an idea of the type of expert they need, but the process of selecting them is individual to the case. For cases of medical negligence, there are experts who specialize generally within their fields, including oncologists, internists, hospitalists, and surgeons (which can also be broken into orthopedic surgeons, neurosurgeons, trauma surgeons, etc.). Experts can also be even more specialized, with some being experts in neuroblastomas, chemotherapy treatments following surgical intervention, and even medical ethics and regulation. In product liability cases, experts can be general engineers to provide context to broad manufacturing processes but can also have a specialty in biomedical engineering with a focus on total hip arthroplasty implants. For nearly any issue, an expert in the field can be introduced as an expert witness.
Are Expert Witnesses Essential in a Personal Injury Case?
Although expert witnesses have a significant role in helping judges and juries understand complex issues, they are not always essential to winning a case. For example, if an attorney, during the deposition of a Defendant driver in a car accident case, is able to establish a breach of duty, causation, and that the breach directly caused or directly contributed to cause the Plaintiff’s injuries by the admission of the Defendant, then it is highly unlikely that counsel would want to spend the money and time for an expert to say exactly what the Defendant admitted to. While many attorneys wish this hypothetical were more common, the harsh reality is that expert witnesses are necessary in most cases because of complex facts giving rise to complex issues and a judge and jury must have someone to break this down for them to understand and deliver a verdict on.
Preparation of Expert Witnesses
While it would be efficient for experts to be brought to a deposition or live at trial without any preparation, only to answer broad questions about their specialty, the reality is that hours of preparation are needed to grasp one single issue. Experts must be prepared to discuss every aspect of the case they testify on because the weight of their opinion rests on their credibility. For example, if an expert responds to a question within their field related to a case during a deposition with “I’m not sure – I’ll have to get back to you on that”, their credibility as a master in the field is tarnished and there is high inefficiency cast on all parties. Depositions and trial testimony are intense sessions where it is unacceptable for someone to not have all case facts, opinions, and support ready to be stated on the record.
The St. Louis personal injury attorneys at Simon Law Firm, P.C. have decades of experience working with experts in all fields related to personal injury, business litigation, intellectual property, and civil rights. Expert witnesses are important in nearly every personal injury case we bring and our standards for ethical, knowledgeable ‘masters within their fields’ have never wavered. We appreciate the help of every expert witness we have worked with and thank them for working to bring justice on behalf of those harmed due to another’s negligence.