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Using Expert Witnesses in Your Personal Injury Case

When it comes to personal injury cases, it is virtually impossible to be able to thoroughly evaluate the facts of your case without the assistance of specialized knowledge. This may include experts who can render opinions on technical, scientific, medical or other specialized areas. In the same manner that a personal injury victim needs the assistance of a skilled personal injury lawyer to guide them through the legal process and available remedies, the judge and/or jury needs the skills of an expert to explain a complicated issue in the case to them in terms they can understand to eventually make an informed decision.

It is not uncommon for both the plaintiff and the defendant in a personal injury case to use their own expert witnesses to explain relevant topics to a judge or jury in a way that is understandable. This is often referred to as expert testimony. Moreover, North Carolina law may require the use of an expert witness by a plaintiff for testimony regarding certain elements of a claim, depending on the type of personal injury claim.

It is true that the use of expert testimony can benefit either party to a personal injury case. Nonetheless, there are certain requirements that a party must establish to a North Carolina court in order to certify an individual as an expert before he or she may testify regarding the matter.

Benefits of Using Expert Witnesses

There are many situations in which using an expert witness in a personal injury case can be beneficial to the plaintiff, or the individual seeking monetary compensation for harm suffered.

The use of expert witnesses is generally common in personal injury cases that involve specialized issues such as those involving engineering issues, automobile accidents, and/or medical/health field disputes. Either or both sides will likely use an expert witness in these types of personal injury cases, particularly if law requires it or if the topic at issue in the case is not well known to the general public. Even if North Carolina law does not mandate the use of expert testimony, using an expert witness can be quite beneficial to a plaintiff because, at minimum, his or her expert can be used to rebut the claims made by the defense’s expert.

Expert testimony that is fact-based is also a powerful tool due to the witness’s ability to provide a judge and/or jury with a summary of the relevant information regarding the personal injury case. The expert can explain the implications of the evidence and guide a judge and/or jury on how to interpret this evidence. Indeed, an expert witness has the ability to efficiently cover a large amount of information in a complex personal injury matter.

Finally, the law allows expert witnesses to provide opinion or inference testimony. They can testify as to their professional or specialized opinion based on the evidence provided which, in turn, helps the jury understand the evidence or a fact in dispute more clearly. Likewise, expert witnesses are allowed to make inferences under the law – if these inferences are derived through the scientific method. This point is important because the use of opinion testimony by a non-expert witness – commonly referred to as a law witnesses – has many more restrictions than those offered by expert witnesses.

Certifying Someone as an Expert Witness

There are particular requirements that must be met in order to certify an individual as an expert witness in a Weddington, North Carolina personal injury case. In order for an individual to qualify as an expert witness in the relevant field, the party putting forth the witness must establish that the potential witness:

  • Has the technical, scientific, or otherwise specialized knowledge in the field that will assist the jury in determining a fact at issue in the case, or will assist the jury in better understanding the evidence;
  • Will put forth testimony that has a sufficient basis in facts or data;
  • Will put forth testimony that is a product of reliable methods and principles; and
  • Has reliably applied those methods and principles to the facts of the particular case.

In addition to the above, trial judges across the nation – including North Carolina – are supposed to serve as the gatekeepers and ensure that non-credible science remains out of our court rooms. Accordingly, a North Carolina trial court will look at four factors to determine whether or not the technique or theory used by a party’s proposed expert witness is adequately based in science. These factors include:

  • Whether the technique or theory used has been subject to hypothesis testing – the standard that distinguishes the scientific method from non-scientific methods;
  • Whether the technique or theory has been subjected to peer publication and review;
  • The technique or theory’s known or potential rate of error; and
  • Whether or not, and the extent to which, the technique or theory is accepted by the relevant scientific community.

Notably, either the plaintiff or the defendant can challenge the other’s expert witness by using one of these factors; alternatively, one side may argue the potential testimony involves common knowledge that does not require the use of or explanation by an expert.

Personal Injury Help in Weddington

Using expert witnesses in a personal injury case – whether or not it is required - can be a powerful tool that may make the difference in a case. Having a skilled and experienced North Carolina personal injury attorney to find the appropriate experts for your case and get their testimony admitted is even more critical. Contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today for a free personal injury consultation with one of our dedicated attorneys who can guide you through your claim.