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The Role of Witnesses

Posted in: Blog, Medical Malpractice, Serious Personal Injury // Written on behalf of Cuming & Gillespie
April 30, 2020

Witnesses are an important component that can help strengthen your personal injury or medical malpractice claim.  Witnesses can bolster your position and may even provide useful information to prove who is at fault in the case of an accident, for example.

For personal injury cases, eyewitnesses who can provide evidence regarding why your accident and resulting injuries occurred and medical experts who can testify about your specific injuries and their impact on your life are examples of witnesses that can help bolster your claim.

In terms of medical malpractice cases, expert testimony is required as the facts are usually too complex for those who are not doctors to determine if the patient’s doctor should be held liable for the patient’s injury.    

TYPES OF WITNESSES

There are two types of witnesses in a personal injury case, lay witnesses and expert witnesses.  A lay witness is an individual who is not an expert, but can provide useful information about what he/she observed (i.e. how an accident happened).  Lay witnesses can only offer their opinion about what they saw or their perception of the situation.

On the other hand, an expert witness, is an individual with unique skills, knowledge, experience, education or training that makes him/her qualified to provide an opinion about an issue in question (i.e. how the victim’s injuries are linked to the accident).  Expert witnesses can be used by both sides of a legal case to help explain a complex element of a case to judges and juries.

Unlike lay witnesses, expert witnesses provide unbiased and objective testimony.  Experts are also allowed to provide inferences based upon the facts and evidence in a case, which may help clarify an issue that is unclear to a judge or jury.

TYPES OF EXPERT WITNESSES

There are numerous types of expert witnesses that are helpful during settlement negotiations or at trial.  Expert witness opinions are relied upon to help persuade an insurance company or opposing party to agree to an appropriate settlement.  Their opinions are also very helpful to educate a judge or jury about an issue involved in the case if the matter proceeds to trial.

The type of witnesses required for an individual’s case is dependent upon the type of accident that occurred and the type of injuries that occurred.  Each individual’s claim is different and some may require several expert witnesses to prove their claim.

An accident reconstruction expert may be hired to explain how an accident took place.  This type of expert can analyze information related to the accident in an effort to explain how the accident occurred.

Medical experts, including surgeons, doctors, medical technicians and other professionals, are often used to provide opinions regarding the extent of the victim’s injuries, treatment, the effect of the injury on the victim and the likely cause of the injuries.  In the case of a medical malpractice lawsuit, medical experts are used to provide opinion evidence regarding the appropriate standard of care in the circumstances and how the doctor, nurse or medical facility failed to meet that standard of care.

Mental health professions, such as psychologists or psychiatrists, are experts that provide valuable opinions regarding the mental effects that an injury has had on a victim. 

A rehabilitation specialist is often used in personal injury cases to provide an opinion regarding the future medical needs of the injured party.

An economic expert is a type of expert used in almost every personal injury case to provide an opinion regarding the economic impact that the victim has suffered as a result of the injury, including his/her earning capacity. 

In the case of a defective product, a manufacturing expert may be used to provide an opinion regarding how the product in question was poorly designed, manufactured or marketed.

For slip and fall cases, property experts, including contractors, builders or property inspectors, may be called upon to provide information on how the property should be kept and maintained and whether the stairway, for example, was not up to code.

EXPERT WITNESS CREDENTIALS

Your personal injury lawyer will be able to determine which type of experts are required for your particular case.  The expert witnesses that your lawyer chooses for your case will likely have the following credentials:

  • A high level of experience in their field;
  • Experience in providing legal testimony;
  • Has been published in professional journal articles or books;
  • Has teaching experience or the ability to explain challenging ideas to laypersons; and
  • Has qualifications that distinguish him/her as a professional in his/her field.

It is the duty of an expert is to provide an unbiased opinion in a clear manner, no matter who hires them and how much they are paid.  It is especially important that an expert only provide evidence regarding an issue that is within his/her area of expertise.

Choosing the right personal injury lawyer is the first step in the difficult process of commencing a personal injury or medical malpractice lawsuit.  A lawyer who is knowledgeable and has expertise will be able to guide you through the complicated, time-consuming and risky litigation process. 

A law firm that specializes in personal injury and medical malpractice law will be able to contact a team of medical experts to help you present your case and can make a difference in the eventual outcome of your case.  At Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers, we can assemble a team of legal and medical experts to ensure that you put forth the strongest case and receive the compensation you are entitled to.  With over 20 years of experience, the award winning lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers have the experience and knowledge to evaluate your case and help you decide whether you should pursue a claim.  Call us at 403-571-0555 or online today to book a free consultation.

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