When an accident claim goes to trial, your case’s success relies on the strength of your evidence. Evidence proving negligence is only one part of the case; you must also provide evidence to support your demands for damages. While photographs, eyewitnesses, and police reports can prove fault, sometimes a special kind of evidence is necessary. If the court is still unconvinced regarding fault or the damages you suffered, you may need an expert witness for a car accident case.
What is an expert witness?
Expert witnesses are professionals who provide factual testimony on behalf of an injured plaintiff. Attorneys use these special witnesses in car accident lawsuits when an expert's opinion on a specific matter is necessary. Some common types of expert witnesses in car accident claims include:
- Accident reconstructionists who analyze the crash scene and help determine factors such as speed, velocity, and if/when the defendant applied the brakes before a collision.
- Medical experts who identify the severity and long-term impact and limitations the plaintiff's injuries will have on his life.
- Vocational experts who testify regarding the plaintiff's ability to return to his job or find other applicable employment with regards to their injuries.
- Economic experts who assess the wage loss, lost earning capacity, and projected cost of care for the plaintiff's injuries and work loss.
The testimony these experts provide is unique in the fact that they did not directly witness the accident or injury but can make assessments in the aftermath of the accident based on their research and knowledge.
Attorneys designate expert witnesses as such due to their history of work, knowledge, and training. Many expert witnesses also serve as doctors, safety experts, and financial professionals aside from their time serving as evidence providers in court.
When might an attorney use an expert witness for a car accident lawsuit?
Your attorney may bring in an expert witness to serve as additional evidence to supplement your claim for damages. The following are situations where a lawyer may call an expert witness to testify:
No witnesses: There were no witnesses to your accident, and the police report is inconclusive regarding fault for the crash. An accident reconstructionist can assess the tire marks, the positioning of the cars, impact points, and injuries to identify what was happening before the collision.
The effect of your injuries is unknown: You suffered multiple fractures to your fingers and wrists. A medical expert can testify as to how long you will take to heal and the prognosis for making a full recovery. The expert can also identify any long-term consequences of your injuries.
Your lawyer may also call a vocational expert in to address the impact this injury will have on your ability to return to your previous line of work.
Your injury required you to change careers: You are unable to return to your previous job as a mechanic due to your hand injuries and must take a job in a customer service call center. A financial expert can testify regarding your loss of earning capacity due to taking a lower-paying job.
A medical expert might also testify regarding your loss of enjoyment of life and the pain and suffering of having to quit the mechanic job you loved.
Bringing an Expert Witness into Your Case
While attempting to settle out of court, your attorney or the opposing party might identify areas where your evidence is weak or absent. These shortcomings are where expert witnesses can help fill in the blanks. Your attorney might make the decision to bring in expert witnesses well before you decide to go to trial.
When out of court negotiations with the insurance company fail, your attorney can move to take the case to trial. When this happens, you will enter a process called discovery, where the attorneys compile the evidence necessary to go to trial.
At this point, your attorney may call in expert witnesses to consult on the case. Calling an expert only to consult (and not to testify) is not a common practice, as per Washington Civil Rule 26(b)(5)(B) you must have exceptional circumstances for a consulting expert to be necessary for your trial.
The most common use of expert witnesses is as witnesses testifying during the trial. If your attorney intends to call upon expert witnesses to testify during the trial, he must disclose the following:
- Witnesses name and qualifications as an expert
- Subject matter upon which the witness will testify
- Contents of the facts and professional opinions the witness will provide
- Summary of the need for these opinions
The defending party may require these items in writing before the trial during the expert's deposition.
The defendant in your case is also entitled to his or her own expert witnesses. Your attorney might request furnishing of the same information to your legal team for assessment. The examination of expert witness information before trial is an essential part of building a claim for or defense against damages.
Does my case need an expert witness?
Attorneys commonly call expert witnesses into car accident cases where the plaintiff experiences catastrophic damages or loss of life. Because these events have such a wide-spread impact on victims’ lives or the lives of their loved ones, careful examination, and assessment of the damages is necessary.
Attorney Max Meyers has established relationships with many expert witnesses to help provide the necessary evidence for his client's cases. When your attorney calls an expert witness, he funds the witness’s appearance and contributions to your case until you reach a settlement. There is no up-front cost to you for an expert witness to testify on your behalf.
Not every legal case requires an expert witness, and an attorney must review your initial case before identifying the need. Contact Max Meyers Law to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation regarding your right to recovery after a car accident: 425-399-7000.