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The Effectiveness of Expert Witnesses in Personal Injury Litigation

One of the biggest fears our clients express is that of the increased cost associated with using an expert witness to advance their cause of action. While it is no secret that expert witnesses do not consult for free, a well-developed, thoughtful opinion by an expert can be the deciding factor in whether your case is victorious. Expert witnesses are particularly useful in cases involving either complex medical issues or highly-technical mechanical or engineering questions. As you prepare to speak to a personal injury attorney, realize that many (if not most) cases do not require the use of an expert witness. However, if your case involves the above-mentioned components, you may consider enlisting the help of a knowledgeable doctor, engineer or scientist to help bolster your claim.

What is an expert witness and how can he help my case?

Under California law, an expert witness is one who can offer generally accepted information regarding a highly-specialized area of medicine, science or engineering. At trial, the expert must provide information relating to his or her background, including education, publications and employment history. These standards are designed to eliminate the introduction of “junk science” or other types of “expert” testimony that have not been thoroughly tested for credibility.

 The party using an expert witness should take great caution to carefully and clearly elicit testimony that a jury can understand. For instance, an expert witness may be used in a personal injury case involving a motor vehicle accident. Specifically, the plaintiff would like to hold the car manufacturer responsible based on a faulty part. The expert, likely an engineer or experienced mechanic, should be asked simple, straightforward questions about the particular car part in question; followed by questions as to how the part should work versus how it worked during the incident in question.

 What is the difference between a ‘retained’ expert witness and a ‘non-retained’ expert witness?

Courts are generally interested in whether an expert was involved in the case prior to litigation or was retained by a party for purposes of preparing for trial. A retained expert witness is one who did not know the party prior to litigation and was engaged for purposes of preparing a report and testifying at the trial. A non-retained expert witness is one who was already involved with the party prior to litigation and is providing his or her expert opinion based on information gathered over the course of the relationship. A prime example of a non-retained expert witness is a treating physician who has known the patient for months or years prior to the current litigation.

 Contact a reputable personal injury attorney today

If you are interested in commencing a personal injury lawsuit, the Law Office of Nelson C. Barry can help you determine whether an expert is needed in your case as well as your likelihood of success on the merits. For more information or to speak to an attorney, contact our office today.


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