Skip to Content

The Role of Expert Witnesses in a Personal Injury Case

November 12, 2014 Motor Vehicle Accidents

Should pre-trial negotiation attempts fail to end in a reasonable settlement, a personal injury case will go to trial.  At this point, it becomes the burden of the plaintiff to demonstrate, by a preponderance of the evidence, that each element of a valid negligence claim is present. Otherwise, the plaintiff will not prevail in a verdict proclaiming the defendant’s liability for personal injury.

Some of those elements, for example causation or extent and severity of damage, are frequently best established by calling an expert to testify for the plaintiff.  Experts are not witnesses in the sense that they saw the injury-inducing event with their own eyes.  Rather, experts employ their particular skills, including specialized training and education, to explain to the fact-finder what happened in the plaintiff’s situation.  Experts possess special knowledge, whether technical or scientific or otherwise, in their field superior to the average person that allows a witness to inform the judge or jury on particular matters relevant to the trial.

A Hypothetical

Often in the case of motor vehicle accidents, injury to the plaintiff’s head, neck, and body comes from enduring whiplash. Because the burden is on the plaintiff, the plaintiff must show that the accident caused by the defendant created whiplash and, in turn, the whiplash brought about the plaintiff’s injury.

It is circumstances like these where professional opinions can be invaluable tools to explain causation. An expert well-versed in the human musculoskeletal system, perhaps a doctor who practices orthopedic medicine, can be called by the plaintiff to illustrate how the forces present in a collision impact the body resulting in serious injury.

Putting the Case Together

It is your attorney’s job to present your personal injury case in its clearest and most persuasive form. In the realm of expert opinions, an attorney must choose the proper expert with the correct credentials and qualifications as well as the ability to explain complex issues in an understandable way. Testimony must be elicited by your attorney from experts on direct examination in an easy-to-follow and well-ordered manner. Skilled presentation in this regard comes from experience in the courtroom.

However, seasoned familiarity with trials does not only allow for proper presentation of expert testimony on the plaintiff’s behalf. It is a distinct possibility that the defense will call experts of its own to testify. The testimony by defense experts must be challenged by thorough cross-examination. Appropriate evaluation of the strength of an opposing party’s expert evidence can only be done by a lawyer steeped in the issues and facts in question.

If you or a loved one has been hurt in a car accident, it is the negligent person’s responsibility to pay you for the damage they have caused you.  However, chances are they won’t do that duty willingly. If you or a loved one has been hurt in an accident anywhere in North Carolina or South Carolina, be sure to contact an experienced auto accident attorney so we can get to work on your case immediately.