Expert Witnesses in Personal Injury Cases
Expert witnesses frequently play a crucial role when litigating a personal injury case. Often, they are the preferred method of proving non-economic damages in Texas. Some cases, like medical malpractice, require expert witnesses.
An expert witness is a person who testifies at trial. They have relevant skills, knowledge, training, or experience in a particular field that qualify them as an expert.
They use their expertise as they testify on behalf of a plaintiff or defendant.
Not just anyone can be an expert witness on any issue. Texas law requires the following conditions for an expert to testify:
- There must be an issue of scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge that is relevant to the facts in dispute;
- The expert witness must have “sufficient experiential capacity in [their] field of expertise … [which] encompasses knowledge, skill, experience, training, and educations”; and
- The fact testified to must be within the expert’s field of expertise.
To prove your case, your attorney may need to retain qualified experts to testify to facts, give their expert opinion, and perhaps refute any inaccurate testimony presented by the defendant.
Typical Cases that Require Expert Assistance
An expert witness is critical to prove the following harms or damages:
- Physical injuries
- Physical pain and suffering
- Medical expenses
- Emotional trauma and mental anguish
- Lost future wages or lost earning capacity
The expert witnesses commonly used to help establish these damages are discussed below.
Types of Expert Witnesses
Experts range from cell phone records specialists to vehicle collision reconstructionists.
Cell Phone Records Specialist
Many vehicle accidents are caused by a defendant talking or texting on a cell phone. Proving this is another matter. A phone records specialist can help demonstrate that the defendant was talking or texting when the accident occurred by accessing and explaining cell phone records.
Commercial Truck Maintenance Specialist
Large truck accidents on highways are often more complex than the run-of-the-mill car accident at a suburban street intersection. A specialist in maintaining commercial trucks can testify as to issues like lengthy stopping distances, a turning radius, or reduced visibility. They can also provide information on whether a truck received all the necessary safety maintenance.
Most commercial trucks manufactured since the 1990s have electronic control modules (ECMs). This monitoring system collects data related to speed, RPMs, sudden braking, and quick stops. Although initially designed to protect the engine manufacturer against warranty claims, ECM data can be beneficial in a personal injury case. The data can help to establish how long the driver operated the vehicle in a day, driver error, maintenance issues, and violations of the Federal Motor Code Safety Regulations.
Law enforcement agents, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians can provide expert testimony of accidents they’ve witnessed. These public safety and on-scene medical responders usually have great credibility with a jury.
Economist or Life Care Planner
While a lot of damages calculations are concerned with medical issues, loss of future wages and loss of earning capacity are also critical sources of damages. An economist or life care planner can help estimate these lost earnings through testimony on the plaintiff’s earning potential, reduced ability to perform their job due to severity of the injury, and life expectancy.
Many accidents happen due to the defendant’s use of drugs – legal or illegal. Medical toxicologists can give their opinion regarding adverse drug reactions, drug toxicology, poisoning, and overdoses. They may also provide testimony on the longer-term health impacts due to the effects of drugs, such as causation of lymphoma, mesothelioma, and lung fibrosis.
Injuries to the brain, spinal cord, and nerves are common in automobile and other accidents. A neurologist can provide testimony on these subjects, including the degree of injury, level of disability, and future treatment needs.
Brain injuries, for example, often require years of rehabilitation and assistive care. A neurologist can be very helpful in determining the extent of future care required.
Orthopedic injuries include hip replacement, spinal injuries, arthroplasty (joint surgery), and other musculoskeletal issues. An orthopedist can provide expert testimony on all aspects of these injuries, including the level of disability and future medical needs.
Pain Management Specialist
Many common injuries can leave the victim with a lifetime of chronic pain and discomfort. A pain management specialist can help quantify this by testifying about the amount of pain the victim suffers, how it impacts their life, and the costs of future pain medication treatment.
Some of the most severe physical injuries include lost functional abilities or even the loss of a body part like a hand, arm, or leg. A rehabilitation specialist can provide information about how to restore functional abilities in light of these debilitating injuries, including testimony on future rehabilitation needs, prosthetics device needs, and associated costs.
Transportation Safety Specialist
Today’s vehicles have many safety precautions built into them. These include safety tires, airbags, and safety belts. An expert in this field may be needed to testify whether these safety measures were implemented or adequately maintained. An example of a great expert witness could be a former employee of the United States Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Vehicle Collision Reconstructionist
Probably the most prevalent personal injury claim comes from vehicle accidents. Expert testimony may be needed for collision analysis, vehicle crashworthiness, acceleration, braking, and other common issues in car accidents.
Let an Attorney Help You
If you’ve experienced an injury due to someone else’s negligence, you should contact a personal injury lawyer to discuss your claim. An experienced lawyer will have contacts with some of the most reputable experts needed to support your claim and get you the compensation you deserve.