Expert Witness

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Expert Witness

Expert WitnessIf you’ve been seriously injured and are involved in a lawsuit, chances are that one or more expert witnesses will assist in proving your claim.

New York law allows parties in a personal injury lawsuit to use expert witnesses when they “would help to clarify an issue calling for professional or technical knowledge, possessed by the expert and beyond the [knowledge] of the typical juror.”

What Are the Qualifications for an Expert?

Not every person qualifies to provide expert testimony. New York courts require experts to have the necessary education or experience in their field of expertise. 

Education, such as having a Ph.D., is often helpful to establish a person’s qualifications. However, qualifications can be obtained through other means. For example, “long observation and actual experience” may suffice. Alternatively, the proposed expert may come from “the real world” and have extensive experience in their field of work.

Ultimately, whether or not a proposed expert is allowed to testify is at the trial judge’s discretion.

What’s the Basis for an Expert Opinion?

Not only does an expert witness have to be qualified, but they also must have an appropriate basis for the opinions they provide. Generally, an expert uses the facts (inferred or actual) of the case to form the basis of their opinion. 

There is a special rule if the expert’s opinion relies on a unique scientific theory. In this case, the opinion must satisfy the standard put forth in Frye v. United States. Under the Frye test, “in order for a particular scientific principle or a particularly novel theory to be considered sufficiently reliable . . .  it must first be shown to have general acceptance in the relevant field.”

Disclosure of Expert Testimony

Parties in a personal injury lawsuit have to disclose their use of experts to the other party.  New York law (C.P.L.R. § 3101(d)) details the rules for disclosure. 

Upon request, each party must:

  • Identify each person expected to be called as an expert witness (except in medical malpractice cases);
  • Disclose the subject matter each expert will testify about;
  • Detail the substance of the facts and opinions relied upon;
  • Provide the qualifications of each expert witness; and
  • Give a summary of the reasoning for each opinion provided.

These disclosure requirements only apply to the experts a party expects to call to testify, not experts that are used for consulting purposes.

If a party wants to know more about the “expected testimony of any expert,” a court order is required. A request for this order must show special circumstances to allow the order. 

Courts have granted them under the following circumstances:

  • Physical evidence has been lost or destroyed;
  • The information sought cannot be obtained by other means; and
  • Other unique situations, considered on a case-by-case basis.

Generally, however, these orders are difficult to obtain.

Types of Experts

There are experts available for any topic at issue in your personal injury claim, from cell phone records specialists to vehicle collision reconstructionists. Here are a few commonly used ones.

Cell Phone Records Specialist

Many personal injury claims arise from car accidents; many of these accidents arise from the defendant talking or texting on their phone. A specialist can access and explain phone records, which may be key to proving your case.

Life Care Planner

Much of the focus in personal injury claims is on how hurt the victim is and how much medical costs they have incurred. However, a victim can also lose a significant amount of money from lost time at work or due to a diminished ability to earn a living. The life care planner can explain to a jury how the injured person has lost wages and suffered a decrease in their ability to earn a living due to their serious injuries.

Neurologist

Car accidents often result in severe injuries to the brain, spinal cord, and other nerves. A neurologist is a specialist in this area and can testify about a victim’s degree of injury and future medical needs. 

Orthopedist

Orthopedic injuries are those affecting bones like hip replacement, spinal injuries, and similar issues. An orthopedist can explain these complicated injuries in terms that a jury can understand and help prove both the extent of future medical care and the level of the victim’s disability.

Pain Management Expert

Many injuries involve a sustained recovery period during which the victim suffers from severe pain. A specialist in pain management can help quantify this by explaining the extent of pain a victim suffers, impacts on their life, and how much future pain management will cost.

Specialist in Transportation Safety

Vehicles today are full of safety precautions built into them. These include airbags, safety belts, and collision avoidance systems. An expert in this field can testify about whether these safety measures operated correctly or were adequately maintained.

Vehicle Collision Reconstructionist

These experts can provide testimony about collision analysis, crashworthiness of the vehicles involved, braking, and other issues typically relevant in car accidents.

Hiring the Right Experts

Our experienced lawyers represent you in your personal injury claim. Part of this representation includes finding the right expert witnesses to demonstrate the extent of your injuries and the financial damages you have suffered.