Every personal injury claim is different, so it is important to work with an experienced personal injury lawyer to ensure that each aspect of your claim is supported by strong evidence. Aside from documentary evidence from the plaintiff, police reports, and accident witnesses, a personal injury lawyer may also call upon the assistance of an expert witness to provide evidence in the form of an expert opinion to help guide the court in making a decision. While a plaintiff can speak to the impact of their injuries on their daily life, an expert witness can be brought in to provide supporting information to help present a strong case and ultimately help recover maximum compensation. 

What Role Does an Expert Witness Play in an Injury Claim?

An expert witness is retained by a party to guide the court on a particular issue of which the expert has proficient knowledge based on their education, experience and training. For example, an expert witness may speak to accident liability, the type and extent of the plaintiff’s injuries, income loss, and future care costs. However, it is essential to note that an expert witness does not advocate for either party. Instead, their opinion will help the court better understand a complex issue. 

An expert witness typically provides their opinion through an expert report prepared before a trial. These reports must be prepared, filed and disclosed in accordance with various rules set out in the Rules of Civil Procedure.

In many cases, the plaintiff and defendant will retain an expert witness for the same issue. The time an expert witness is retained is different in every case. Generally, the plaintiff schedules their assessments and obtains their expert reports before the defence does the same. 

Who is an Expert Witness?

The type of expert witness(es) who may be asked to provide evidence to support a personal injury claim depends on the case’s circumstances and the impact of the injuries on the plaintiff’s life. In most cases, an expert witness can review a plaintiff’s medical history and provide opinions and recommendations. However, they are not a member of the plaintiff’s treatment team. 

Some of the commonly sought-after expert witnesses are described in further detail below. 

Liability Experts

An accident reconstruction specialist is a professional engineer who is retained to answer questions regarding how an accident happened. A reconstruction expert is often sought after in cases where liability of a motor vehicle accident is in dispute or where there are questions regarding a specific issue, such as using a seatbelt. After reviewing police evidence, the accident scene and essential information from the vehicles involved, a reconstruction specialist will prepare a report providing diagrams and narratives about the accident.  

Economic Experts

Every injured plaintiff will sustain various economic losses. An economist or forensic accountant may be retained to help determine the estimated costs of future care for the plaintiff based on their injuries. Alternatively, an economist or forensic accountant can help determine the plaintiff’s estimated loss of future income or earning capacity. After calculating various factors, such as the plaintiff’s historical earnings, an economic expert can prepare a numeric report illustrating the value of present and future losses. 

Medical Experts

Since medical evidence is the basis for any compensation claim, a plaintiff may retain one or several medical experts to help prove their case. A neurologist can speak to the severity of a plaintiff’s brain injury and the impact of such injury on the plaintiff’s activities of daily living, An orthopaedic surgeon can provide an opinion on the severity of a plaintiff’s orthopaedic injury and the likelihood of such injury creating a permanent disability. 

Cost of Future Care Experts

An occupational therapist may be retained to work with the plaintiff and complete a functional capacity evaluation to determine the plaintiff’s restrictions and limitations concerning their employment, activities of daily living, and future cost of care. A plaintiff who has sustained catastrophic injuries will often require ongoing care expenses throughout their lifetime. Therefore, an occupational therapist’s report showing a plaintiff’s medical history, functional capacity results, and treatment costs can help justify appropriate compensation to cover the costs of these anticipated future expenses. 

Vocational Experts

If a plaintiff cannot return to their pre-accident employment due to their injuries, they are still required to mitigate their losses to the best of their ability. This means that eventually, a plaintiff will often be required to return to some type of employment. A vocational expert can provide evidence relating to what if any, alternative employment a plaintiff may be qualified for following an accident based on factors such as the plaintiff’s injuries, limitations and restrictions, education and experience. A vocational expert can provide realistic opinions about a plaintiff’s future employment prospects and any accommodations and training that will likely be required.   

Limitations on Expert Witnesses in Alberta

Pursuant to section 2 of the Insurance (Enhancing Driver Affordability And Care) Amendment Act (the “Act”), a party to a personal injury claim arising from a motor vehicle accident in which the damages are valued at $100,000 or more is not permitted to advance expert evidence of more than three experts regarding damages. 

Additional limitations about the number of expert reports are also set out in section 2 of the Act.

Contact the Personal Injury Lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie LLP in Calgary for Trusted Advice on Personal Injury Claims 

The personal injury lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie LLP help Albertans pursue various personal injury claims. Our lawyers draw on their vast knowledge and extensive experience to ensure that every client’s personal injury claim is managed appropriately. When you work with our personal injury team, you can rest assured that we will handle the file from the beginning until the end so that you can focus on your recovery. We will advocate on your behalf to ensure that you receive appropriate compensation so that you can move forward after the accident. If you have been involved in an accident, contact our personal injury lawyers online or call us at 403-571-0555 to arrange a confidential consultation.