Frequently Asked Questions - What do expert witness do?
An expert witness gives his independent opinion in a specific field of his or her expertise, education, knowledge and experience. This opinion can be a written report and/or in person at a deposition or trial testimony in front of a Judge and jury. An expert witness is allowed to offer opinions based on facts of the case whereas a lay witness is only allowed to testify as to the actual facts in question of what they observed. Expert witnesses provide opinions in technical subjects such as engineering and medicine. An expert witness will help your attorney prove the facts of your case.
Expert witnesses are hired by both the Plaintiff’s attorney and the Defendant’s attorney.
There are many different types of expert witnesses used in civil cases.
If you are in an automobile accident or had a slip and fall accident, most likely the experts will be your treating medical doctors. Your treating doctors are called "non-retained experts". Non-retained expert means that they have not paid in advance to provide their expert opinion due do the fact that they are your treating doctors. Your treating doctor will testify as to your medical complaints; injuries and their relationship to the accident. Your doctor will testify as to the permanency of any alleged injuries and the reasonableness and necessity of medical services and bills generated by all health care providers. Your treating physician "the non-retained expert witness" opinions will be based upon his or her examinations and treatment, review of medical records and diagnostic tests, his or her medical training and experience.
Your attorney may also retain other medical doctors as expert witnesses to review your medical records and MRIs to provide their expert opinion that your injuries are permanent and were caused by the subject accident.
Sometimes an accident reconstruction expert witness is needed in automobile accidents. Accident reconstruction expert witnesses are usually automobile and/or forensic engineers that will analyze the vehicles involved in the accident go to the scene of the accident to study the roads and usually with access the damage to the vehicles to the vehicles involved in the accident. The accident reconstruction expert witness will usually make a model of the accident scene and the vehicles and explain to a jury the law of physics and give their expert opinion as to how the accident was caused, who was at fault for the accident, the impact to the vehicles and how the impact caused the Plaintiff’s injures.
If your case has been set for trial your attorney will have to disclose all the expert witnesses that he/she intends to testify at trial in your case. At that time all expert reports will have to be provided to defense counsel. The defendant’s attorney will also have to disclose their expert witnesses and their reports.
Expert witnesses are specifically hired for the expertise in a specific field. When the defendant’s attorney hires an expert witness, they specially have hired that expert witness to disagree with the Plaintiff’s expert witnesses. If you received treatment and had surgery on your neck from a neurosurgeon for your injuries, the defense attorney will hire an expert neurosurgeon to first review your medical records and MRI films then you will be required to have the defense expert neurosurgeon examine you. The defendant’s expert will write a report based on his opinion and expertise that your injures were not caused by the subject accident.
When your expert witness gets on the stand to testify in your case, this is called direct examination, your attorney will ask the expert witness detailed questions about his or her education, degrees; qualifications and all credentials in their specialty field in order to show that they are qualified to testify as an expert witness. Your attorney will be asking questions to the expert to basically paint a picture of your case. The expert witness will testify about his/her opinion, how he/she reached that opinion and the sources and information that were involved in reaching his/her opinion. The expert witness' testimony needs to clear and precise so that a jury can understand the testimony being provided. Expert witnesses' testimony can be very scientific and/or in medical terms which will need to be broken down and put into layman terms by the expert witness so that the Jury can understand the facts and opinions that they are hearing.
An expert witness not only needs to have extensive knowledge in the area of his or her specialty but he or she also needs to have courtroom skills and knowledge and how to handle cross examination by the defense attorney.
The cross-examination questions sometimes can get an expert witness who is not accustomed to giving trial testimony to get unraveled and to question their own opinions and become argumentative or defensive with the attorney asking the cross-examination questions. When an expert witness is being cross-examined by the other party's attorney, that attorney will ask questions to get the jury either not to like that expert witness or not to believe that expert's testimony. Some cross examination questions will include asking the expert witness how much they have been paid for his or her opinion and what he or she is being paid to come to trial and give his or her testimony. Some jurors do not like the fact that these expert witnesses are being paid a large amount of money to be an expert witness. However, all the expert witnesses are being paid, so jurors may tend not to give this too much bearing on their decision about the expert witness. In cross examination the attorney will try to attack the expert's creditability and whether or not he is qualified to testify as an expert witness. In most cases, the Judge determines whether or not an expert witness is qualified to testify. If your case goes to trial the expert witnesses from each side will just be contradicting each other’s testimony and it will be up to the jury to decide which expert to believe based on the facts that the Jurors have heard.