If you boil down every personal injury case down to its most basic ingredients, you’ll find two things: liability and damages.
Liability is simply the legal term for a basic question: Who is at fault? For instance, if your vehicle is struck by another car from the rear, the other driver will almost always be held at-fault, or liable, for any damages that occur, as is the case with most rear-end auto collision cases.
“Damages” refers to the amount of money or compensation a claimant collects, and the amount of damages a claimant is eligible to receive depends on the severity of injury and their proportion of liability. So, liability plays a key role here also.
However, while the concept behind liability is a basic one, proving fault in a lawsuit is not always so simple. To help add legitimacy to an injury claim, lawyers often bring in an expert witness.
Who qualifies as an expert witness?
Expert witnesses are consulted in personal injury litigation to add credence to a claim. A witness is considered an “expert” if they have particular qualifications, experience, and/or knowledge of a certain subject relating to the case.
For instance, physicians or other medical professionals can be called into auto collision cases or premises liability claims to testify about the severity of a plaintiff’s injury. Based on their expertise, the physician typically provides information on how the injury most likely occurred, what treatments were used to remedy the injury, and how the injury will realistically affect the plaintiff in the future.
But a witness does not have to have medical knowledge to be considered an “expert.” Expert witnesses may be skilled in a scientific, technical, or other field instead. So long as the individual has knowledge beyond that of an average person, such that others may rely on their specialized expertise, then they can be called in as an expert witness.
Expert Witnesses in Auto Collision Cases
In many serious personal injury cases dealing with car, truck, motorcycle, or pedestrian accidents, an accident reconstruction expert is consulted.
Using their extensive knowledge of scientific and engineering principles, and all of the available evidence—size and weight of vehicles, kind of tires, road conditions, etc.—these experts can “reconstruct” how the collision occurred, and then offer an educated opinion on what (or who) it was that caused the accident.
Or in cases where the plaintiff suffered an injury that makes it difficult for them to recall the exact sequence of events leading up to the accident, human factor experts can be called in to help show a jury how the driver might have perceived the oncoming accident, and the realistic length of time it would have taken them to react appropriately, based on the evidence.
Having both an accident reconstruction expert and a human factor expert involved in the same case is extremely valuable in helping the jury piece together the real sequence of events leading up to the accident and determining who is at-fault.
To learn more about the key role expert witnesses play in tort cases, talk to Denver auto collision attorney R. Mack Babcock, or schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.