When you picture an expert witness taking the stand, you probably imagine big, dramatic television courtroom trials — murder cases, pharmaceutical company class actions, and other high-profile affairs that make the evening news.
Though you don’t often hear about it in the news, expert witnesses are an ordinary part of many everyday auto accident claims — even those that involve relatively moderate-range injuries and never go to trial.
The Difference Between On-the-Scene Witnesses and Expert Witnesses
Expert witnesses are different from on-the-scene witnesses (what we might call an “eyewitness”), who might not have any relevant expertise but who saw the accident happen with their own eyes.
In comparison, an expert witness is someone who did not see the accident happen but who can provide qualified and credentialed analysis that helps the court understand a highly technical or nuanced issue.
Why Would You Call an Expert Witness in a Car Accident Case?
Expert witnesses can speak to a wide range of factual matters in a car accident case. They might be called to help the court understand:
- How the accident happened
- Who, if anyone, violated traffic laws
- Who is at fault for the accident
- The severity of the injuries
- The financial impact of the accident
- The emotional impact of the accident
- The impact of the accident on your quality of life and your future
- Engineering issues related to the vehicle and/or the road design
- Any other issue where expert testimony can illuminate an issue or lend credibility to the victim’s allegations or claims
In fact, expert witnesses can play an important role even in cases that never go to court. As Kingston auto accident lawyers, for example, we might hire an expert witness to prepare a report that we can use in our negotiations with the insurance company on the other side. If the insurance company believes that we will be able to present persuasive expert testimony at trial, the insurer may be more eager to avoid that trial and reach a fair settlement outside of court instead.
The Most Common Types of Expert Witnesses in a Car Accident Case
While there are many fields of expertise that might be relevant (depending on the specific facts surrounding your claim), some of the most common expert witnesses in a car accident case include:
Insurance companies will often try to belittle or diminish an accident victim’s injuries. After all, the insurance company wants to save money.
But insurance adjustors aren’t doctors, and they don’t have any business telling you what your injuries are like or how serious they are.
Medical experts can provide objective and credible testimony about your injuries, their costs, and the treatment and recovery required.
Beyond the physical injuries themselves, medical experts may also be able to provide testimony about the probable degree of your emotional pain and mental suffering as it relates to the injury.
Accident Reconstruction Specialists
The police report can only tell us so much about how an accident happened and why. In most cases, the officers weren’t there to see the crash for themselves. Even if they were, a cursory examination of the crash scene can only reveal so much about the factors at play.
Accident reconstruction specialists are able to recreate the accident after the fact, drawing on a wide range of forensic and environmental evidence (coupled with testimony, photographs, and other evidence) to reach an expert opinion on issues of causation, fault, and damages.
Accident reconstruction specialists are among the most frequently called expert witnesses in a car accident case.
Accountants & Economists
Calculating your monetary damages isn’t always as easy as it might seem. Even if your bills are printed in plain ink for anyone to see, the long-term costs may require expert calculation.
For example, if you have a claim for future loss of wages, a proper calculation will need to account for inflation, promotions or raises you might miss out on, pension benefits, the rising costs of medical care over time, and other complex factors.
These calculations may carry more weight if they are rendered by an expert accountant or economist.
Highway Safety & Roadway Design Experts
A lot goes into building and paving a road. It is a surprisingly sophisticated science! Only an engineering expert with special training and experience in highway safety and roadway design can provide competent testimony about how the road’s design (or transient surface conditions) might have contributed to your accident.
People often hire highway safety engineers as expert witnesses in a car accident case if they want to show that the government was partially responsible for the accident, or if they are defending against an allegation of liability.
Psychologists & Mental Health Experts
Psychologists, psychiatrists, neuropsychologists, and other mental health experts can provide testimony about how the accident has affected you emotionally and mentally, as well as its impact on your quality of life.
Because pain and suffering damages (e.g. PTSD, anxiety, emotional distress, etc.) sometimes account for the largest part of an accident victim’s compensation, mental health professionals are among the most important expert witnesses in a car accident case.
Vocational experts can testify about how the accident has impacted your ability to work, your pay or earning capacity, and which jobs may or may not be available to you now as a result of the injuries.
Free & Confidential Consultation with Our Kingston Personal Injury Lawyers
O’Connor and Partners is a personal injury law firm based in Kingston, NY that provides legal services throughout the entire state, including Kingston, Newburgh, Poughkeepsie, Ellenville, the Hudson Valley, New York City, and beyond.
We fight hard to maximize compensation for injured New Yorkers and their families. We are proud to offer confidential, no-cost, no-obligation consultations to injured people and their families all throughout the state.
If you choose to hire us after your consultation, we will not charge you a fee unless we get you money first.