Expert Witnesses in Personal Injury Cases
Experts can offer testimony that is more technical than that of lay witnesses. Experts are useful witnesses when some aspect of your accident or injuries is in dispute in your case. For example, the lawyers for the person you’re suing may try to dispute that the accident could have caused your injuries. Your attorney may use a medical expert or a highway safety expert to testify that the kind of accident you had indeed is likely to cause the type of injuries you suffered.
When you file a lawsuit, it becomes your responsibility to prove to a jury that the accident caused your injuries and that you deserve compensation for your medical costs and other damages. Experts help prove your case so that a jury will be convinced you deserve compensation for your injuries. Expert witnesses come at a cost, but their testimony also can help secure a larger settlement or jury verdict. An experienced personal injury lawyer can discuss with you whether an expert or experts might help your case.
What is an Expert Witness?
An expert witness is someone whose work, reputation, training, and/or study in a particular field renders the person qualified to render an opinion about topics in that field. Experts often are specialists in their fields who have made detailed study of something specific. Think of a DNA expert in a criminal trial, for example. Experts also can be generalists. In a personal injury case, an expert witness might be someone like a physicist who can testify about the force and velocity of an impact based on known science.
Common Types of Experts in Chicago Personal Injury Cases
The type of expert you may need to support your claim will depend upon the unique facts of your case. You may need an expert as specific as someone who can testify about the tendency of a particular brand of tire to blow out under certain loads or at certain speeds. But in general, there are certain categories of experts often used in personal injury cases. Your accident attorney should have a list of reputable experts at hand who can provide opinions on these types of matters.
- Medical Experts — These usually won’t be your own doctors or health providers, but rather ones that examine you after the case starts and then offer independent reports and opinions about your injuries. Medical experts could be specialists, such as orthopedic surgeons, or more general practitioners. The nature of the expert depends upon the nature of your injuries and the opinions needed to support your case.
- Mental Health Experts — These experts can testify about how your accident has affected your mental and emotional state. Testimony from mental health experts may be used to support claims for compensation of pain and suffering or loss of normal life.
- Accident Reconstruction Experts — These witnesses usually have lengthy histories and training in investigating accidents and unraveling the sequence of events that resulted in an accident, and can help establish the link between your accident and your injuries.
- Economics Experts — If you’re claiming that your injury affects your ability to earn a living, an economic expert can testify about how your injury affects your employment prospects, and the value of future wages you might have earned if not for your injury. This type of testimony helps support claims for compensation of lost wages.