The Role of Expert Witnesses in Personal Injury Cases

The Role of Expert Witnesses in Personal Injury Cases

Personal injury cases often involve complicated medical, scientific, or technological issues. Expert witnesses can provide vital testimony when these issues arise to support a victim’s claim. But what makes someone an expert, what advantages do they provide, and when might a case require their help? These are good questions to ask if you file an insurance claim or personal injury suit after an accident. 

The experienced Colorado personal injury lawyers at Earl & Earl, PLLC know how to use expert witnesses to help you recover compensation. Contact us today to learn how they might help your case. There’s no cost or obligation for a consultation, so there’s nothing to lose. 

What is an Expert Witness?

An expert witness is someone with specialized knowledge or experience in a particular field. If a plaintiff or defendant in a personal injury case needs someone to explain complex concepts or provide context to some aspect of the case, they can call an expert witness to assist them.

There are expert witnesses in many fields, from engineering and chemistry to medicine and economics. The type of expert witness you need for your case will depend on the kind of accident, the evidence you need to support your claim, and other factors. If your personal injury lawyer decides you need help from an expert, they can find someone with the necessary knowledge or expertise.

Types of Expert Witnesses

Some of the most common types of expert witnesses used in Colorado personal injury cases include:

  • Medical experts  A medical expert is someone with medical training and knowledge of how the human body functions. Most expert witnesses are medical doctors who specialize in the area of medicine the case involves. For example, a plaintiff who sustained a traumatic brain injury might call a neurologist or neurosurgeon as an expert witness. In contrast, someone who broke multiple bones in an accident might call an orthopedic surgeon. In a wrongful death case, the plaintiff might hire a forensic pathologist to explain how and when someone died.
  • Forensic experts  A forensic expert uses scientific methods to analyze how an accident occurred and who caused it. They might use their training and knowledge to recreate an accident to better explain how a plaintiff sustained their injuries.
  • Economic experts  To maximize your compensation in a personal injury case, your lawyer might hire a financial expert to testify about how an accident impacted you financially. An economic expert can examine your financial records, provide more details on your medical bills, lost income, and other economic losses from an accident, and forecast your anticipated financial needs for the future. 
  • Chemical experts – A chemical expert applies their knowledge of biology, chemistry, toxicology, and related fields to testify about a substance related to a personal injury case. For instance, a chemical expert can provide more details on how exposure to toxic chemicals caused a person’s injuries.
  • Engineering experts  If there are questions in a personal injury case about how a piece of equipment or technology works, an engineering expert can provide valuable context. Engineering experts can also testify about whether products are safe or suffer from defects that played a role in the accident.
  • Vocational experts  One significant factor in many personal injury cases is whether a plaintiff can return to work after the accident. A vocational expert can examine a plaintiff’s medical records and other evidence to determine if the plaintiff’s injuries prevent them from working or finding other employment.

Advantages of Using Expert Witnesses

Expert witnesses provide two critical advantages in a personal injury case. First, they can explain complex scientific topics to an insurance company, a jury, or a judge. By breaking down these topics and showing their relevance to the case, an expert witness can help the injured party build a more robust argument for compensation.

The second key advantage of using expert witnesses is to explain what happened when there is little physical evidence. A plaintiff might not have photos or video of the accident, but an expert witness can look at the available evidence and provide their opinion on how the accident happened. In some cases, an expert witness may be the plaintiff’s strongest evidence.

What Are the Requirements for Being an Expert Witness?

Under Colorado’s rules of evidence, a plaintiff or defendant in a personal injury case can call an expert witness to help the “trier of fact” (usually a judge or jury) better understand the evidence or answer questions about the case. As for what makes someone an expert, the rules of evidence say a witness’s qualifications can include their “knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education.”

Colorado also has specific rules for expert witnesses in medical malpractice cases. State law says an expert witness in a medical malpractice case must be a licensed doctor who can prove “by competent evidence” that they have the training, education, knowledge, and experience to testify about the relevant issues in the case. 

Which Personal Injury Cases Might Need Expert Witnesses?

Not every personal injury case needs expert testimony. However, some cases benefit significantly from getting an expert’s opinion, such as: 

  • Medical malpractice cases Many people lack the understanding to make informed decisions about medical issues without a doctor’s explanation. It is common for both sides of a medical malpractice case to call expert witnesses to support their claim.
  • Product liability cases A judge or jury must know how a product is manufactured and supposed to work when determining if a company is liable for the plaintiff’s injuries in a defective product case.
  • Car accident cases  A lot can happen in the split-second when cars collide, making it hard to determine liability for a crash. Medical, engineering, and accident reconstruction experts can analyze and clarify facts in a motor vehicle accident case.

Contact a Personal Injury Attorney for Help With Your Case

The Colorado personal injury attorneys at Earl & Earl, PLLC, have a strong network of expert witnesses we can call upon to craft a solid case for maximum compensation if you’ve been hurt. Contact us today for a free consultation and find out what we can do for you.

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