What is an Expert Witness?
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.
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 the Denver accident attorneys at (303) 825-2223.
What Constitutes an “Expert”?
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
An effective witness means to identify potential witnesses is at the scene immediately after the accident. Directly following the crash, once you have determined that you or others do not need immediate medical care, if there are onlookers, engage them at the scene.
People may be in a rush and not wish to be bothered; however, if you obtain their contact information, they may be willing to assist at a more convenient time.
If you had passengers at the time, do not forego this opportunity to obtain witnesses and assume your passengers are sufficient; they are not good options as witnesses because they may be perceived as potentially biased in your favor. When an unbiased eyewitness provides strong testimony and is deemed as credible, it can be extremely effective.
Common Types of Expert Witnesses
Expert witnesses 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.
- Testifying: An expert that is expected to be used as a witness.
- Non-testifying: An expert retained in preparations, but did not end up providing testimony.
- Medical: May be used to explain the injury incurred, severity, and any long-term disabilities or impairments that a person may have.
- Investigating officer: If an officer who responded to the accident has adequate education, training, and experience, they may be qualified to provide testimony and opinion as an un-retained expert.
- Re-constructionist: Experts in accident reconstruction tend to be engineers that can provide information about how an accident event developed and occurred. They commonly use tools such as scientific investigation and electronic modeling to reenact.
- Forensic accountant or economist: These experts may be used to calculate damages such as lost or reduced amounts of future earnings.
- Mental/psychological: This kind of expert may be used to explain mental conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder that may occur following an accident.
Qualifications & Credibility
Colorado’s C.R.E. 702 provides a framework of how it is determined whether a witness is properly qualified to provide expert testimony:
- How reliable the witness’ scientific principles are;
- Qualifications as a witness;
- How useful the testimony will be for the jury; and
- An expert’s qualifications may be based on knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education.
How Expert Witnesses Can Impact a Case
Though it is certainly true that many 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 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.
Obtaining Witness Testimony
During the pretrial and discovery processes, parties may formally request non-parties to appear to provide witness testimony. A subpoena is a court order requesting someone to produce certain information or to be present at a specific time and location to provide relevant case information. A deposition occurs when a witness delivers testimony relative to a case.
Unrivaled Legal Advocacy for Colorado Injury Claimants
Denver personal injury 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. Because the Law Firm of Jeremy Rosenthal accepts cases 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. 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.