Personal injury cases can and regularly do involve a broad range of evidence types, ranging from photographic materials taken at an accident scene to reams of medical treatment records compiled over the course of months. In cases involving especially complicated or highly technical concepts, however, expert witness testimony sometimes takes center stage in terms of helping shape the ultimate outcome. Succinctly stated, an expert witness is someone who has a high degree of specialized knowledge, training and/or experience in a relevant field and who can provide testimony designed to clarify key issues for judges or juries.
What Constitutes an “Expert” for Purposes of a Personal Injury Case?
Despite their descriptive title, an expert witness is not in fact a “witness” in the traditional litigation sense, in that they almost certainly did not personally observe the events at issue. Rather, these individuals are brought into personal injury cases because they possess particular understanding and education in a field or discipline relevant to the dispute. Different jurisdictions have their own standards for what exactly qualifies as admissible “expert” testimony in a case, though judges in Colorado are encouraged to consider factors that include:
- reliability of the scientific methods and principles utilized
- the specific qualifications, education and experience of the proposed witness
- how useful the testimony is likely to be to the jury
- whether or not the methods used can be or have been tested
- whether the method has been subjected to prior peer review
- known rate of error for the methods used
- whether evidence has been used in prior cases to negate or bolster the methodology's merits
Common Types of Expert Witnesses
Expert witnesses in personal injury matters may hail from a number of distinct disciplines, and it is important for potential plaintiffs to understand how each may play a role in their case. One particularly common type of expert witness in an injury matter is that of the engineer or accident reconstructionist. These individuals may employ investigative strategies, computer modeling, scientific analysis and personal observation in order to provide insights into how an accident actually developed and transpired.
Medical experts may be utilized in order to provide detailed assessments of injury types and the potential they bring for long-term disability or impairment. A victim's personal physician will not typically serve in this role, because his or her close relationship with the plaintiff would likely cast some doubt on the credibility of the testimony offered. However, a third-party expert can make a big difference when it comes to simplifying complex conditions for jury members and demonstrating the ongoing impact of physical and emotional harm sustained.
Forensic accountants or economic loss experts can be crucial in establishing the true value of a personal injury plaintiff's claims. He or she will be able to analyze actuarial data, employment trends, wage and benefit figures and the like to render an opinion as to the real amount of losses sustained, projected expenses yet to be incurred and income or earning potential destroyed as a result of the accident at issue.
Psychologists and other mental health professionals may be called to provide opinions on the ongoing impact of post traumatic stress disorder, panic disorders and other conditions that may otherwise be difficult for juries to quantify. Because injuries such as these can prove vexing in terms of attaching a dollar value for purposes of compensation, expert witnesses can prove pivotal to the outcome a plaintiff's claim.
How Expert Witnesses Can Impact Colorado Personal Injury Cases
Though it is certainly true that many personal injury matters are relatively straightforward in nature, and the services of an expert witness would be unnecessarily redundant. However, there are many auto accident cases, product liability matters and other sorts of claims in which the issues presented are unusually complicated and difficult for juries to grasp. In such circumstances, expert witnesses can provide the sorts of insights, in-depth analysis and scientific credibility required to bolster a plaintiff's arguments.
Engaging the Services of an Expert Witness
Despite the potential advantages of employing expert testimony as part of an overall litigation strategy, many plaintiffs balk at the often high cost of securing the services of such individuals. The fact of the matter is that the expertise offered by these knowledgeable technicians does not come cheaply, and the expense involved can indeed be substantial. However, because many if not most personal injury matters are undertaken by attorneys on a contingency basis, it is often the case that the fees commanded by an expert witness will be advanced by the lawyer with nothing coming out of the client's pocket. In fact, plaintiffs will only be required to repay the funds expended if and when an award of compensation is obtained in the case.
In all circumstances, the decision whether or not to use expert testimony in a given case is an extremely fact-specific one which calls for detailed analysis and deliberation on the part of a plaintiff's attorney and his or her client. In the end, the benefits of the unique, advanced knowledge brought to bear by an expert may well outweigh the costs in terms of the eventual recovery which can be achieved.
Unrivaled Legal Advocacy for Colorado Injury Claimants
Attorney Jeremy Rosenthal understands how overwhelming a personal injury event can be and assists clients with the seemingly innumerable decisions that must be made in the days, weeks and months following such misfortune. Committed to shouldering the burden on behalf of those harmed by the negligence of others, he stands prepared to initiate a comprehensive investigation of the facts, amass critical documentation and other evidence and work together with a network of experts, support staff and others in order to maximize each client's chances of recovery.
Because the Law Firm of Jeremy Rosenthal accepts personal injury matters on a contingency basis, clients who believe they lack the resources necessary to pursue justice are afforded a no-risk opportunity to secure the accountability and financial compensation they are owed. If you or someone close to you has sustained serious harm because of another party's negligent acts or omissions, there is no reason to delay. For a no-cost initial consultation to review the facts of your case, contact us at 303.825.2223.