In a personal injury case, the injured party has the burden of proof. This means it is the victim’s responsibility to demonstrate that they suffered damages as a result of the defendant's negligence. This often requires the testimony of expert witnesses in various fields.
What is an Expert Witness?
An expert witness is a person with specialized knowledge in a particular field that is beyond the knowledge of the average juror. Expert witnesses offer testimony in both criminal and civil legal matters. Their testimony is relied upon to prove or disprove claims. An important distinction between a fact witness (i.e. eyewitness) and an expert witness is the type of testimony they provide.
Fact witnesses offer testimony that requires no specific skill or training. They are simply relaying something they saw or heard. Expert witnesses, on the other hand, provide opinion testimony on specialized issues in the lawsuit. These witnesses must be qualified as experts in their fields in order to offer opinions in the case. They review records, testimony, physical evidence, and other pertinent information to arrive at their opinions.
Testimony by an expert witness may be needed in order to support a plaintiff’s personal injury claims. Complex cases typically require multiple expert witnesses in various fields.
Types of Expert Witnesses and their Areas of Expertise
There are many different types of expert witnesses who testify in litigation matters. However, in personal injury cases, we frequently utilize experts in the following fields:
- Psychiatry and mental health
- Accident reconstruction
- Vocational training
- Technical fields
- Other specialized areas
Impartiality is a crucial characteristic of an expert witness. Their testimony must be unbiased, and based on the facts of the case and their professional expertise. An expert should have no conflict of interest in the case, including no relationship with parties and no vested interest in the outcome of the case. Prior experience testifying in court is not required for an expert witness, but it can help under certain circumstances.
Role and Importance of Expert Witnesses
In personal injury cases, the defendant will often argue that they are not to blame for the accident or the resulting injuries. In these situations, expert witnesses can provide testimony explaining how an accident was caused by a defendant and/or how the plaintiff’s injuries were directly related to the accident.
Perhaps nowhere is expert testimony more important than in a medical malpractice case. Juries cannot be expected to make decisions on complex medical issues without the assistance of qualified expert physicians and medical professionals. Experts in these cases offer opinions on complex issues involving medical causation and damages. Often, these cases involve dueling experts on both sides and juries must weigh the testimony of the experts to determine who is more credible and believable.
Expert witnesses can also help determine the amount of damages that a plaintiff has incurred. They evaluate income loss, future medical expenditures and bills, life expectancy, potential lifetime earnings, and other pertinent factors that help the parties determine fair and equitable compensation for the plaintiff.
An experienced personal injury attorney understands the vital role that expert witnesses play in these cases, and has a network of professionals to call upon when needed.
If you are dealing with the effects of a serious personal injury in New Jersey, please contact The Reinartz Law Firm to discuss your claim and how we may be able to assist you.