What is an Expert Witness?
An expert witness is a specially trained professional called upon to provide valuable background information for a case. Their testimony can make all the difference in the world in your case—specifically, improving your chances of receiving the compensation you deserve.
When layperson’s testimony isn’t enough
The best way to explain the value of an expert witness is with a hypothetical example:
You have been involved in a car wreck that caused extensive damage to your neck and back. Your medical bills exceed the amount your insurance company is willing to pay, so you seek legal help.
Your attorney wants to build the strongest possible case on your behalf. The problem is that your situation involves highly technical information.
In this instance, your personal injury lawyer may call upon a medical specialist to explain complex medical terms and concepts in language that the average person can understand. In addition to providing facts, the physician may also render an opinion about the relationship between the accident and your injuries.
In sum, expert witnesses play an indispensable role in our legal system. Without them, many accident victims would never receive adequate compensation.
Determining who may serve as an expert witness
Our court system sets stringent guidelines on who may serve in this role. This is to prevent unethical attorneys or insurance agencies from unfairly “rigging” a case’s outcome.
While standards and procedures may vary, in general, an expert witness must meet the following five criteria:
- They must be qualified: In the example, we cited above, the physician who provides testimony should specialize in treating back and neck injuries. A spinal surgeon would be an ideal choice. On the other hand, a family doctor, or even a chiropractor, probably would not meet the threshold set by the court.
- They must be data-driven: in other words, an expert witness must back up their testimony with information specific to your case. In the example of a spinal injury, suitable information may include x-rays, test results, or detailed notes from a hands-on medical examination.
- They must be helpful to the case’s outcome: The job of an expert witness is to clarify details that might otherwise escape notice or comprehension. It’s not to demonstrate how much they know about their particular field, no matter how knowledgeable they may be.
- They must be in good standing with other members of their profession: For example, a doctor whose medical license has been suspended or whose professional opinions are contrary to those of the established medical community, may fail to meet the court’s standards for an expert witness. At the very least, a disreputable or unorthodox witness may face a serious challenge from the other side.
- They must be objective: Unfortunately, some professionals have acquired a reputation as hired guns willing to say almost anything in exchange for a hefty fee. Not only is this kind of testimony unethical, but it can also hurt your case.
Can an expert witness benefit your case?
Often, the answer to this question is a firm “yes.” However, it’s important to remember that the other side may challenge the witness’s testimony. Only a skilled New York personal injury attorney can determine what type of witnesses or other evidence are most likely to strengthen your case.
This brings us to the topic of how to choose the best law firm for your needs. Here are some tips for helping you to make this important decision:
- Do your research: Don’t just go with the first attorney you read about or whose commercial you see on TV. Instead, look for a law firm with a solid track record of achieving favorable results for its clients.
- Don’t make a full commitment until after your initial consultation: Your first consultation is the perfect time to ask questions and decide if a law firm is the best fit for your needs. If you don’t feel comfortable with the firm, then feel free to look elsewhere.
- Remember that personal injury law is a specialized field: Not only is each case unique, but each type of case also calls for a particular skill set. Look for a law firm with the resources and experience needed to represent you,not just someone like you.
Contact us today for a free consultation
Once you consider these factors, we are confident that you will choose Douglas and London to represent you. Get in touch with us today to schedule your no-cost consultation with a New York City personal injury lawyer. We look forward to being your advocate.