What is an Expert Witness in a Personal Injury Trial?

There is more than one type of witness in a personal injury trial. Most are testifying to what they saw. These are known as lay witnesses and are limited to their direct observations, not their opinion.

The other type is known as an expert witness. They are allowed to give their opinion on specific issues at trial, but only if it meets specific criteria—such as the nature of your injury or their opinion on how an accident happened.

In some types of cases, a successful claim requires expert witnesses. Finding the right one and preparing them for trial is not easy, however. Thankfully, a personal injury lawyer in Pittsburgh can assist you with this process.

What makes a witness an expert?

While Pennsylvania law sets limits on who may serve as an expert witness, these limits are relatively liberal compared to other states. The law allows individuals with specialized knowledge about a relevant subject to give their opinion in the case.

Expert testimony can be used for a variety of reasons in a personal injury trial. When establishing negligence, they could give state, in their opinion, that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care. Likewise, another expert could state that the defendant breached this duty of care.

Frequently, experts will weigh in on the damages a plaintiff is entitled to. This could involve testimony regarding their need for future medical expenses or an opinion on their reduced quality of life following an injury.

Types of expert witnesses in an injury trial

There are many different examples of expert witnesses in an injury case. Arguably the most common is a medical expert. Typically, a doctor who specializes in the part of the body that was injured– can review the medical records of the plaintiff or examine them directly. Based on this, they could offer their opinion on the plaintiff’s injury.

Accident reconstruction experts are also common. In many motor vehicle collisions, it is challenging to determine who was at fault. In cases where both drivers blame each other, an accident reconstruction specialist could offer an opinion on the cause. Their testimony could involve measurements of skid marks or the type of damage to each vehicle.

Engineers are also common expert witnesses. They can testify in a variety of claims, including defective product injuries or slip and fall accidents. For example, an engineer could give their opinion on whether the construction of a building was faulty.

The role of an expert witness

The role of an expert witness is not limited to testifying at trial. Trial testimony indeed plays an integral part of their job. However, they can also play a significant role before the trial begins. In fact, some experts are only consulted prior to the filing of a lawsuit. These are known as consulting experts.

They serve to evaluate an aspect of an injury case. Often, a plaintiff will rely on their guidance to determine if a claim is strong enough to bring to trial. In other cases, these experts could assist a plaintiff’s attorney with getting up to speed on a specific technical aspect of a claim.

When expert witnesses testify, the other side is entitled to depose them and learn what they discussed. However, this is not the case for consulting witnesses. A plaintiff does not have to disclose this– if they do not call them to testify. 

Contact us today 

Selecting and preparing expert witnesses is essential for many injury claims, but it is not a simple process. Having an attorney who has built relationships with reliable experts across all major fields offers you a significant advantage. To learn more about how we can help you develop your injury claim, schedule a free consultation right away.