Car Crash Expert Witness: Benefits And Reasons Explained
Updated July 2020
A car accident changes your life the moment it happens. Going through the process of recovering, filing claims with insurance companies, finding representation, determining fault, and so much more are added to your do list. Working through that process can be difficult. You may need to expand your team to navigate the changes.
Skaug Law is committed to making that process easier by building the right team to support your case. When it comes to car accidents, the team may involve hiring a car crash expert witness to give more insight into the conditions of the accident.
What are car crash expert witnesses, and why can they be beneficial when dealing with cases involving auto accidents?
What Is A Car Crash Expert Witness?
An expert witness is someone with the background, education, and experience to be considered an expert in a specific field of work. Their testimony will help to prove your case.
Types Of Auto Accident Expert Witnesses
Expert witnesses may be specialists in a variety of different fields. The expert witness used in a car accident case will depend on the details of the collision, injuries, and related events.
For instance, a lawyer may hire an accident reconstructionist on an intersection accident case where drivers disagree about who entered the intersection first or who ran the red light.
In cases heavy truck collisions or structural cases, a civil engineer may be used to reconstruct and explain dynamics that might be too complex for the average court member to understand without their expert opinion.
Another expert witness may be a physician who has reviewed all of the medical records and bills to decide if they were reasonable and necessary. A physician may also explain the full extent of the victim’s injuries to the jury.
There are even cases in the United States where a product designer can explain any product liability involved in the car accident to help prove where the fault truly lies.
A skilled car accident lawyer should hire experts who are comfortable speaking to a jury and can explain what was going on in the hospital, doctor’s office, or physical therapy clinic.
Speak to a Skaug Law attorney to learn more about expert witnesses in your car accident case.
Requirements To Be A Car Accident Expert Witness
To be an expert witness, one has to be qualified in a particular field with expertise an ordinary person does not have.
Expert witnesses in car accident cases include:
- An accident reconstructionist (usually a practicing or former law enforcement officer)
- An engineer
- A physician
- Anyone from any special line of work related to the accident
Before a person can give an opinion at trial, the court must agree they have sufficient expertise to testify.
There is no hard, fast rule for minimum experience needed for an expert. They must only satisfy the court they have the credibility to testify as an expert.
At trial, there are usually competing experts arguing different opinions about the same event. Sometimes a jury may not like an expert or does not believe them. The jury must pick the one they believe is most persuasive.
An experienced car accident attorney will have a list of experts who are proven at presenting their findings to a jury.
Existing Relationship With The Plaintiff
An expert witness can have some limited relationship with the plaintiff, but credibility may be an issue if they are close friends.
It is best to have experts with no pre-existing relationship with the client, so they are truly independent in their opinions.
An experienced car accident lawyer can help you determine if any pre-existing relationship is likely to damage the case’s credibility or not.
Should You Hire A Motor Vehicle Accident Expert Witness?
Law firms do not always choose to invest in hiring an expert witness.
What are some reasons having an expert witness may or may not be important?
The Benefits Of Hiring An Expert Witness
A seasoned expert medical witness has experience in front of juries. They can look at all of the evidence, all of the medical records and bills, and come up with an independent opinion. A knowledgeable expert can clearly explain to the jury what the client has been through as a result of the accident.
Expert witnesses who are familiar with how courts work are even more beneficial as they are accustomed to explaining complicated details to those without the same educational background. This can prove very useful.
Expert witnesses are well-educated in their field. Their education gives them the ability to speak credibly about the specifics of an accident, determining fault, and other resulting conditions.
Why Some Might Refuse An Expert Witness
Someone might not want an expert witness in their case because of the cost. An expert witness has to be paid for their work, and it can be expensive.
Hiring an inexperienced expert witness or someone who doesn’t know how to explain things in a clear, logical way to a jury might can hurt your case.
An experienced injury lawyer will not hire an expert witness unless they believe it will secure a larger award for their client in a fair and just settlement. They also will be able to choose expert witnesses who are going to benefit, not detract, from the case.
FAQs About A Car Crash Expert Witness
What Is The ‘Expert Witness’ In Accident Cases?
An expert witness is an expert in a particular field (such as accident reconstruction, medical knowledge, engineering, etc.) who can provide credible analysis of what happened when the car accident occurred.
Their knowledge in the field gives them credibility to explain particulars of the accident to the court and jury in a way those parties could not do on their own. Through their testimony, the accident is explained and analyzed in specific, factual ways to help the jury come to a conclusion about the accident.
Can A Passenger In A Car Accident Be An Eye Witness?
Anyone who witnesses the accident first-hand can be an eye witness in a car crash case. Testimony from a passenger in a car involved in an accident may be considered to have some type of bias.
While their testimony will typically be allowed, it is important to remember the jurors will consider a witness may have a stake in the outcome which may affect their credibility.
Third-party eyewitnesses who are completely independent of the accident are typically the most likely to be considered credible. Involving both third-party eyewitnesses and expert witnesses is one way our team may work to prove your case.
What Happens If A Witness To A Car Crash Doesn’t Stick Around?
If a witness to a car crash doesn’t stick around after the accident occurs to offer their statement to individuals or law enforcement officers at the scene, their statements may not be useful later. The most credible eyewitness accounts are those taken right away at the scene. Written reports sent in later may be considered more hesitantly due to the time passed.
Your law team will be able to help you determine if seeking out eyewitnesses to a high visibility accident could be beneficial in proving your claims. There are cases when bringing in witnesses to give statements later on still makes sense. The team at Skaug Law can help you determine the best course of action.
Would You Offer To Become A Witness In A Car Accident?
Ultimately, it is a personal decision to give a statement, offer your contact details, or otherwise become a witness to a car accident you saw happen.
We have seen just how powerful the testimonies of third-party, independent witnesses can be in catastrophic car accidents, so we have a great appreciation for everyone who is willing to share what they saw.
Becoming a third-party witness does not put you in a position of liability as long as you are truthful and honest. But the final decision about your involvement is up to you.
Is It Wrong To Pay A Witness To A Car Accident (As A Thank You) After The Investigation Is Complete?
It is not advised to offer any type of payment to a third-party eyewitness as a “thank you” or payment for giving their testimony. Even if the payment is made after the court trial is complete, any transfer of money between these two parties could ruin the witness’s credibility.
On the other hand, expert witnesses brought in to provide in-depth analyses of the accident and related medical outcomes will be paid for their services. Paid expert witnesses are not offering their memories but are offering their educated analyses. It is expected and legal to pay them for their time.
How A Car Accident Attorney Can Help
Car accident attorneys often use accident reconstruction experts, medical physician experts, and vocational experts to testify at trial.
Expert witnesses in a motor vehicle collision case are there to help the jury understand what has happened and what is true. They help to build the client’s case for a good settlement.
In a car accident trial, expert witness testimony is given whatever weight the jury decides. They decide the credibility of the expert witness.
An experienced injury attorney knows the experts from the community who will be best at trial, and they will be the most knowledgeable about whether or not bringing an expert witness onto the team for your case is going to be worth the investment.
Call Skaug Law today to learn more about the benefits of expert witnesses in your car accident case. Our team has decades of experience dealing with motor vehicle collisions, and we can put this knowledge to work on your side.