Expert Witnesses In Personal Injury Cases: Who are they and why do we need them?

Posted on May 9, 2019

When clients come to us for representation on a personal injury claim, it is our job to present their case as persuasively as possible so that we maximize their financial recovery. We must prove that their injuries were caused by the negligence of another and that the client sustained accident related damages. To properly and fully establish these two critical elements (negligence and damages) we often seek the assistance of expert witnesses. An expert witness is someone who possesses knowledge, skill, training and experience in a particular field and as a result can help explain complicated or technical aspects of our client’s case. Whether the case involves a car accident, a slip and fall or a medical negligence claim, experts are almost always used to ensure that our clients case is presented as thoroughly and as clearly as possible.

Below are some of the more common types of experts we use in our practice.

Accident reconstruction expert
In motor vehicle accidents, it is not always clear how the accident occurred or who was at fault. There are times when we need an accident reconstruction expert to help us present our case and prove the other party’s negligence. Accident reconstruction experts are specially trained in the physics, math and science involved in motor vehicle collisions. We have used accident reconstruction experts in our practice to establish some of the following facts of our cases:

a) the speed of vehicles involved in the collisions-oftentimes the expert can use evidence such as the length and direction of skid marks, the damage to the vehicles and the data from the vehicles onboard computer system to determine speed.

b) what the drivers involved in the accident could see and could not see based on the speed of the vehicles, and the sight lines available to the drivers at the accident location.

c) the amount of time it should have taken a driver to perceive a hazard and to react to that hazard by braking and/or taking evasive action.

d) the relevant rules, regulations and laws relating to vehicle travel on the portion of the road where the accident occurred.

Economists
When there is a substantial economic loss because of an accident related injury, attorneys often hire an economist to help a jury (or insurance company) understand the full extent of the client’s economic losses due to the accident. An economist will analyze a client’s long-term future monetary losses. Economists have the education and training that allows them to simplify complicated economic calculations and present them to a jury in a clear manner.

Vocational expert
The vocational expert is used to help the jury understand the type of jobs that may be available for our injured client, and the effect of our client’s injuries on their ability to perform any type of work. The vocational expert can provide testimony on the type of work our client has performed in the past and whether there are other types of work they can perform now with their post injury limitations.
A vocational expert’s testimony is very helpful in proving our clients reduced earning capacity. It allows us to prove to the jury that had our client not been injured, they would have had a greater lifetime earning capacity.

Orthopedic surgeon
Given the nature of our work, orthopedic surgeons are one of the most common types of experts we use in presenting our clients’ cases. An orthopedic surgeon can present complicated medical information about surgical procedures, recovery and rehabilitation protocols, the pain-and-suffering associated with the type of injury sustained and whether our client will be left with a permanent physical disability as a result of their injuries.

Neurologist
A neurologist is used to provide testimony on topics relating to the brain, spinal cord and nerves. We often use a neurologist to give an opinion on issues relating to herniated discs, partial or total paralysis, headaches, concussions, post concussive syndrome and pain associated with nerve damage.

Plastic surgeon
In cases where our clients sustain lacerations that result in scarring or have scarring from surgical procedures, we may have a plastic surgeon give testimony on the nature of the scarring, whether or not it will fade noticeably over time or may require revision surgery to lessen the appearance of the scarring. Depending on where the scarring is located, a scar can have a dramatic impact on the value of the client’s case. Facial scarring often commands the highest value and therefore we almost always hire a plastic surgeon for such cases.

Engineers
We regularly hire engineers on slip and fall cases. An engineer can evaluate structures such as stairwells and workplace environments and testify as to physical hazards that may be present that contributed to an accident. For example, a recent case we had involved a woman who sustained a serious injury after falling down a flight of stairs. Our expert engineer was able to testify that the stairwell in question was too steep, the handrail inadequate and the stair treads too short. This expert was also able to testify the stairwell and the handrail did not comply with the Massachusetts State Building Code.

Make Sure Your Lawyer Has The Financial Ability To Hire The Necessary Experts

It is very important when choosing a personal injury lawyer to make sure that the lawyer has the financial ability to properly handle your case and retain the necessary experts. It is common for a personal injury lawyer to advance the costs associated with hiring the proper experts for your case, only recovering these costs IF AND WHEN the client obtains a settlement or verdict. The costs associated with hiring experts can be substantial, often running into the thousands of dollars. It is very important to know whether you will be required to advance these costs or whether your attorney will. If your lawyer will be advancing the costs, you will want to make sure the lawyer has the financial means to adequately handle your case. A really strong injury case can be significantly weakened if proper experts are not retained. Do not be afraid to ask your lawyer how he or she expects to pay for any necessary experts in your case.

With offices in Chelsea and Salem, MA, Spada Law Group provides Boston quality legal representation without the commute into the city with free on-premises or validated parking. We are here to answer any questions you may have. Call Spada Law Group today at 617-889-5000 to discuss your situation. The consultation is free and there is absolutely no obligation to hire us. We are open Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm.

Do You Have a Case? Find Out Today