Most car accidents occur because someone was negligent—the driver was speeding; someone ran a red light; or a pedestrian stepped into the road. In these cases, the cause of the accident may be obvious and a witness who saw the accident can testify about what happened.
In many car accident cases, the cause of the accident is not so clear. There may not have been a witness at the scene or the facts of the case may be contested. Perhaps both drivers were partly at fault. In Maryland, this is called contributory negligence. When this happens, the plaintiff in the case is barred from any amount of recovery. Therefore, having an expert witness to testify about the accident may be critical to the outcome of the case.
What Is an Expert Witness?
An expert witness is someone who did not necessarily witness the accident occur but is able to offer an opinion on a case based on his or her education, background, or experience in a specific field. Because of their expertise in a given area, an expert witness can review the evidence in a case and offer an opinion that may be helpful to a judge or jury. The expert’s opinion usually regards some detailed facts or complex issue that a judge or jury member might not fully understand based on their own knowledge or experience. An effective expert witness is able to offer opinions and draw conclusions about specific issues based on their unique training and experience.
What Types of Expert Witnesses Are Used in Car Accident Cases?
Some experts are used in car accident cases as a consultant. They simply assist a lawyer on one side of a case to determine what happened so the lawyer can better understand how to prepare a case for the client. Other experts are called to testify in court to help the judge or jury understand the facts of the case and draw conclusions about various issues that have to be decided. Experts can be useful in either role.
Although expert witnesses are not required in car accident cases in Maryland, a credible expert witness can make or break the case for either side. In any car accident case, there may be one or more expert witnesses who could be the deciding factor. Depending on the issues involved, there are different types of expert witnesses whose testimony may be relevant to the case. Here are some of the common types of experts used in car accident cases:
Medical experts may be called to testify about injuries sustained in a car accident case. Car accident injuries can be complicated. Evidence about head trauma and brain injuries can be difficult for juries to understand. A medical expert may offer an opinion about:
- The nature and extent of injuries;
- How injuries occurred;
- Whether certain injuries are consistent with the nature of the accident; and
- What medical treatment is required.
The expert’s opinion on these matters can help establish the extent of the plaintiff’s injuries in the case and prove that the injuries resulted from the car accident. A medical expert also might testify about treatment plans, physical rehabilitation, and the possible duration of a plaintiff’s disabilities resulting from their injuries.
Even if a plaintiff’s injuries may be clear, the issue for the jury may be what actually happened during the accident. In this case, an accident reconstructionist may be helpful.
An accident reconstructionist is able to use specific data points in an accident to determine what likely happened. The accident reconstructionist simply looks at all the pieces of the puzzle and uses their expertise to fit all the pieces together in a way that reveals a picture of what happened. This expert may review specific evidence in the case, such as:
- The size and weight of the vehicles;
- Damage to the vehicles;
- Skid marks on the road; and
- The angle or position of the cars after the accident.
These data points may help the expert to form an opinion about where the cars were immediately before impact, how fast the vehicles were traveling, and who may have caused the accident.
Highway Safety Engineer.
Some car accidents may not be the result of a driver’s negligence at all. Some car accidence may result from external factors such as the weather, road conditions, or road construction. When these issues are relevant, a highway safety engineer may be helpful to a judge or jury.
A highway safety engineer is able to discuss scientific evidence that may be beyond the normal understanding of a lay person on the jury. This may include things like:
- The angle of a turn in the road;
- The slope of a driveway;
- The visibility of a traffic signal; or
- The effect of weather on a road surface.
Determining these issues may require detailed scientific data that only a specialist trained in these areas may be able to evaluate and conclude. An expert’s opinion on these matters may sway a jury to decide what may have caused an accident and who may be at fault.
Even when it is clear what caused an accident and what injuries a plaintiff may have suffered, the opinion of an expert economist may be necessary to determine:
- What financial losses the plaintiff suffered;
- The medical costs the plaintiff incurred;
- The wages and future income a victim may lose because of their injuries; or
- The value of a victim’s vocational skills and ability to return to the work force.
A lay person is not likely to understand the economic impact of a victim’s injuries on their future earning capacity. An expert economist can assist a jury to calculate a victim’s future damages.
Your “Simple” Car Accident May Require Some “Expert” Opinions
If you were involved in any type of car accident in Maryland, it is particularly important to be able to prove what caused the accident, who was at fault, and what type of injuries you suffered. Even in the simplest of fender-benders, these issues are not always so simple. Often, resolving these issues requires an expert opinion.
The personal injury lawyers at Hoffman, Comfort, Offutt, Scott & Halstad, LLP, can help you determine if you need an expert witness on your side. We know what evidence is necessary to win your car accident case. Our attorneys work with the most knowledgeable experts in the field to present your evidence in a way that a jury will understand.
Choosing the right expert witnesses may determine the outcome of your case. Let the attorneys at Hoffman, Comfort, Offutt, Scott & Halstad, LLP, obtain the best expert witnesses available so that you can obtain the maximum compensation you deserve.