Schilling & Esposito
The Role of an Expert in an Injury Case
Pursuing a personal injury case can be a complex and difficult process. The burden of proof is on the plaintiff to show that the defendant caused them harm that resulted in compensable losses. This is further complicated if the injury occurred in Virginia, because of the state’s “contributory negligence” legal standard. Under contributory negligence, a plaintiff can be barred from recovering damages if they are found to be even 1% at-fault for the underlying incident that resulted in their injury.
In a state like Virginia, plaintiffs need to demonstrate total fault on the part of the defendant (or defendants) by presenting the strongest argument possible. This involves showing key facts and evidence; such as accident reports, photographs and video footage from the scene, medical reports that show the extent of the injury, and statements from eyewitnesses. Another important factor that can help substantiate the plaintiff’s argument is the testimony of expert witnesses.
What is an Expert Witness?
An expert witness is not someone who actually “witnessed” the event that caused the injury. Rather, they are called to testify because of their expertise in a certain area that is pertinent to the case. Expert witnesses are specialists who are accomplished in their field and have achieved a high level of education, skills, and training. Because they are able to speak authoritatively regarding their area of expertise, their testimony is considered more credible by judges or juries who decide the outcome of the case.
Types of Expert Witnesses that May be Used in an Injury Case
In a personal injury case, professionals may be called in from a number of different fields. Some of the most common expert witnesses include:
- Medical professionals: Medical experts can be extremely important in an injury case, because they can speak to the extent of the injury suffered, future prognosis for recovery, and the losses suffered by the victim. Various types of medical specialists may be called, including physicians, surgeons, medical examiners, rehabilitation specialists, pain management specialists, and mental health professionals.
- Accident reconstruction specialists: If the injury was caused by an auto accident, truck accident, motorcycle accident, bicycle accident, pedestrian accident, or any other type of accident, an accident reconstructionist may be called in to determine the cause of the accident and show negligence and liability on the part of the responsible party.
- Forensic experts: There are various types of forensic specialists. In a personal injury case, a forensic toxicologist can be especially valuable if the injury happens because of a vehicle accident involving drunk driving, or in cases that involve drug interaction, such as a medical malpractice case involving the death of a patient due to a drug overdose or improperly mixed doses.
- Financial professionals: If your damages include lost wages and lost earning capacity due to a permanent and debilitating injury, a financial expert can help show the extent of your financial losses.
- Phone records specialists: These days, a growing number of auto accident injury cases involve texting while driving and other forms of distracted driving. If cell phone activity was a factor in the car accident, a phone records specialist may be called in to prove that the driver was on their phone at the time the accident occurred.
Ways Expert Witnesses are Used in Injury Cases
Experts are used in two primary ways during personal injury cases. Most people are aware of testifying experts that are on the list of witnesses to be called to testify in the event of a court trial. Testifying experts typically have very strong communication skills and the ability to make complex topics understandable to the average layperson. These witnesses must be disclosed to the other side, so it is important to choose them carefully.
Another way that experts may be used in injury cases is to consult with the legal team behind the scenes. Consulting experts provide various types of support, such as reviewing certain facts and pieces of evidence and providing advice on legal strategy. Unless they are later converted into testifying experts, the other side may never know which experts were consulted.
Contact an Experienced Virginia Personal Injury Attorney Today
If you or someone close to you has been injured through no fault of your own, you need strong legal counsel in your corner advocating forcefully for your rights and interests. At Schilling & Esposito, we extensive experience successfully representing clients with all types of personal injury cases in Virginia. Over the years, we have established relationships with top experts in various fields, whom we can call upon when needed to put our clients in the best possible position to obtain a favorable outcome. For a free consultation with one of our skilled attorneys, contact our office today at 804-261-1001, or send us a message through our online contact form.