The Importance of an Expert Witness
As the plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit, it’s up to you to prove the liability of the other party. This can be the most challenging aspect of your entire case. At Gardner Law Firm in Biloxi, Hattiesburg, and Pascagoula, Mississippi, we utilize expert witnesses to prove to the judge and jury that events happened as you claim. An expert witness can also help persuade opposing parties to reach a mutually agreeable settlement before the case goes to trial.
Difference Between Lay and Expert Witnesses
In legal terms, a lay witness is simply someone not considered an expert in a particular field. Some things that we consider when classifying an individual as an expert witness include:
- Credentials such as education and experience
- Professional reputation
- Prior experience with expert testimony
- Whether the person has been published in peer-review journals
- Proven skills
Additionally, an expert witness is a professional in his or her field. Examples include doctors, surgeons, mental health practitioners, and accident reconstruction specialists. His or her specialized experience allows the witness to offer explanations and insights into the technical aspects of your personal injury case. In contrast, a lay witness can only offer information based on their own perceptions of a person or event.
Another important distinction between the two types of witnesses is that judges allow expert witnesses to offer their own opinion. However, it needs to meet the following criteria:
- The specialized, scientific, or technical information presented must be useful to determine a fact or understand evidence.
- The expert witness used reliable methods to generate his or her opinion and applied them to the case in a reasonable manner.
- The opinion expressed is based on substantiated facts and data.
Benefits of Having an Expert Witness Testify on Your Behalf
Most personal injury cases operate on the premise that negligent actions by one party caused damages to another. To demonstrate negligence, you need to prove that the defendant had a duty towards you and that he or she breached that duty. An expert in the field, such as a medical researcher or physician with the same level of experience, can explain why the defendant was negligent and how his or her actions directly contributed to your significant injuries.
An expert witness can also help to clarify complex evidence. Some cases are straightforward, such as a video camera recording of a person stumbling drunk to his or her car and starting the ignition. When that driver later hits and injures someone, we just need to obtain the video footage from the place where he or she became intoxicated. Other evidence is not so simple to piece together, such as a toxicology report. An expert witness would be able to explain what he or she sees in terms that lay people could more easily understand.
Yet another thing to consider is that judges and juries respect the testimony of expert witnesses. Naturally, you have a vested interest in your own case as does the other party. Although you likely don’t intend to give biased testimony, the people hearing it won’t give it quite as much weight as the testimony from a neutral party. While Gardner Law Firm does retain the expert witness, he or she doesn’t have a personal interest in the outcome of your case. We have found that clients typically receive higher payouts when an expert witness can help to clarify ambiguities.
Will Your Case Require an Expert Witness?
We understand the immense value of one or more expert witnesses in a personal injury case. However, we can also appreciate that retaining one costs a lot of money. Your lawyer will include you on the decision of whether to bring in an expert witness and explain the reasoning for hiring or declining one. In most cases, only certain issues and facts would require impartial analysis and explanation.
Learn More About Personal Injury Litigation with a Free Case Review
We encourage you to contact the office of Gardner Law Firm in Biloxi, Hattiesburg, or Pascagoula to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys. We will evaluate your case and let you know if you stand a good chance of a successful outcome. If you decide to pursue our services, you don’t pay any fees unless we settle the lawsuit in your favor.