Using Expert Witnesses in Your Personal Injury Cases
I’m Ed Smith, a Personal Injury Lawyer in Sacramento. An intelligent assessment of facts is often impossible or difficult without the use of some type of technical, scientific, or other specialized expertise. An expert witness is the most common source of this knowledge.
What is the Role of an Expert Witness?
Proving the evidence necessary to win a personal injury case often depends on the testimonies of expert witnesses. Expert testimonies tend to be more reliable than the average person’s description and help make the evidence of the case simpler for the judge and jury to understand.
Who are Expert Witnesses?
An expert witness is a professional who has specific technical or scientific knowledge in a particular field. They are doctors, mechanics, scientists or other professionals who can provide information that will help solidify your case and increase your personal injury compensation.
What is the Difference Between Expert Witnesses and Fact Witnesses?
Expert witnesses are much like fact witnesses, in which they should tell the truth, humbly, sincerely and with honesty. Rather than factual evidence, expert witnesses provide opinion evidence based on the specialized skill, experience or knowledge. The capability to present opinion evidence separates expert witnesses from fact witnesses.
Watch YouTube Video: What is an expert witness? The video below explains the difference between an expert witness and a fact witness.
Are all Expert Witnesses Created Equal?
An expert who can testify to a medical malpractice is quite different than one who can testify in a personal injury case. Even in the area of personal injury, there are several types of expert witnesses.
- Accident Reconstruction Experts—demonstrate how the accident is linked to your injuries.
- Economics Experts—justify how your injury affects your job, and any future income you might have earned if not for your injury.
- Medical Experts—explain the nature of your injuries and the opinions needed to support your case.
- Mental Health Experts—describe how the accident has affected your mental state.
Are Expert Witnesses Expensive?
Expert witnesses can cost a substantial amount of money. Some doctors, in particular, charge up to $1,000 an hour with a three-hour minimum for their services. But having their testimony in court could make a difference in whether you receive a large settlement or not. Most attorneys are happy to pay for their service, even having them fly in from across the country if their testimony can help prove their client’s case.
Are Expert Witnesses Objective?
An expert witness has a duty to provide independent, impartial and unbiased opinions to the court. The jury will immediately notice any agenda that the expert witness may have. An unbiased expert witness considers all facts and documents objectively and without concern to how the attorney or client wants them perceived. The attorney advocates for the client and it is his or her duty to argue the case with conviction and passion. It is not the expert’s job to champion for the client. Providing a biased opinion will hurt the expert’s credibility and the case.
Do Insurance Companies Use Expert Witnesses?
If your personal injury case goes to trial, the insurance company will more than likely send its own specialists to examine you. The insurance companies will then take the word of their experts to offer lower settlements or deny your claims entirely.
What Happens When Expert Witnesses Go Bad?
In this industry, it’s not uncommon to see dishonest expert witnesses willing to sell their soul for money. If a specialist is biased towards the insurance company and gives a testimony that helps the case, the insurance company is willing to use him again. The more the specialist is called upon as an expert witness, the more money he or she makes. There’s a clear conflict of interest for the insurance companies’ experts.
Expert witnesses are expected to give their testimony based on their scientific knowledge or on the facts of the case. Even though most experts are paid for their testimony and are entitled to payment, that should not influence their opinion.
Cases Where Expert Witnesses Go Bad
Two Nevada judges banned a neurosurgery expert from testifying in two separate cases, finding his opinions to be unreliable and bias against personal injury plaintiffs. Dr. Derek Duke, a neurosurgeon, testifies on behalf of insurance companies and earns about a million dollars a year to give second opinions. In 2017, Justice Timothy Williams disqualified Duke for bias and wrote a 35-page explanation after evaluating over 300 of Duke’s expert opinions. Judge Williams’ report found that Duke disagreed with the treating physician nearly 95% of the time, and 86% of the time, he found no injury when the treating physician determined there was. Duke was also disqualified in 2015 for bias by Justice Mark Denton.
Another expert witness who made over a million dollars a year giving testimonies for insurance companies was found lying in court. In Bermejo v Amsterdam (2015), a New York judge criticized defense expert witness, Dr. Michael J. Katz for perjury concerning an exam he completed on the plaintiff who sustained injuries at work. Katz stated that he spent about 10-20 minutes during the exam. A covert video later revealed that he only spent one minute and 56 seconds.
When are Expert Witnesses Useful?
Not every personal injury case requires an expert witness but it’s almost impossible to present a detailed case without one. They are useful in cases where the opposing party disputes the link between the accident and your injury. Experts can testify to the specific long-term effects of your injury and that can provide a better outcome for your case. For more information contact an experienced personal injury lawyer today.
Personal Injury Lawyer in Sacramento
I’m Ed Smith, a Personal Injury Lawyer in Sacramento. If you have suffered an injury in an accident, you can call me at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400 for free, friendly legal advice.
I am honored to be a personal injury attorney at the Million Dollar Forum.
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