What Is the Role of Expert Witnesses in Personal Injury Claims in California?

What Is the Role of Expert Witnesses in Personal Injury Claims in California?

If you have suffered a personal injury accident, an expert witness may be vital to your case. It’s important to understand the role of an expert witness and what type of professional you may need for your case.

An experienced Century City personal injury lawyer at LA Century Law will explain the role of a personal injury expert witness.

What Is the Role of an Expert Witness?

The role of an expert witness is to explain scientific, technical, or medical information that may not be easily understood by the jury. A person with specialized knowledge can provide informed testimony and opinions on important issues in a case.

Types of Expert Witnesses Commonly Used in Personal Injury Cases

  • Accident reconstruction experts – Recreating the details of an accident and factors that contributed to it
  • Medical experts – The extent of injuries, how the injuries resulted from the accident, future injuries, and pain and suffering the victim has likely endured from the injuries
  • Economic experts – Detailing the financial losses in the case, including calculating lost wages, personal care needs, and disability
  • Forensic, toxicology expert – Testifying to the cause of death, chemical testing, or the source of a fire, for example
  • Engineering and manufacturing experts – Discussing the design and function of a product, part, or system
  • Vehicle experts – Explaining safety features of vehicles and features that may be important to a claim
  • Specialized medical experts – Testifying for specific medical issues, such as neurology, pain management, or orthopedics
  • Mental health experts – Addressing mental health injury sustained by the victim and causation of injuries
  • Vocational experts – Discussing whether a person’s work will be limited in the future because of injury
  • Electronic records experts – Testifying about maintenance, production, and custody of electronic records
  • Financial, accounting experts – Summarizing losses and damages

There are many types of expert witnesses in California that may be used in a personal injury case, and you will not need every type of expert for your case.

How Expert Testimony Can Influence the Outcome of Your Claim

As the plaintiff, you must prove your case, showing that the defendant breached their legal duty of care.

You must show how the defendant caused your injuries and detail the types of losses you have suffered and appropriate compensation.

Expert testimony may be outcome-determinative. Without an expert, there may be no way to admit necessary information. Using an expert may make the evidence easier to understand or more persuasive.

Knowing when and how to use an expert witness can be a key part of your legal strategy.

Selecting the Right Expert Witness for Your Case

At LA Century Law, we prepare your case right away. With years of experience and millions collected for our clients, we know the role of expert witnesses. When we represent you, we determine what experts may be needed and question experts that may be presented by the defense.

Preparing Your Expert Witness for Trial

Not anyone can come into court and say that they’re an expert witness. A person must be qualified to offer specialized knowledge or information. Qualifying as an expert may be based on:

  • Education
  • Training
  • Skill
  • Knowledge
  • Experience

A person doesn’t necessarily need to have a degree in the field, although it may be helpful.

California Evidence Code §§ 720-723 discusses expert witnesses and how to qualify them. The person may testify to their knowledge and qualifications to be an expert.

In addition to presenting the evidence to qualify them as an expert in court, the expert must be disclosed in discovery (Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 843). Preparing to offer expert testimony begins long in advance of your trial date. Additionally, there may be disputes as to the extent of discovery regarding an expert witness.

Legal Considerations When Hiring an Expert Witness in California

  • What will this expert help me prove?
  • Has the person testified in court as an expert before?
  • Is the expert I selected qualified under California Civil Procedure?
  • What do I need to disclose to the other party through discovery?
  • Have I complied with the discovery requirements regarding the expert?
  • Do I need to object to any discovery requests from the defense?
  • Are there any instances of professional misconduct that may make the expert’s testimony less persuasive?

At LA Century Law, we handle all of these considerations on your behalf as we determine how an expert or expert may help your case.

2024 Update – Defense Expert Witnesses

Effective January 2024, California has a new rule for defense experts testifying about medical causation.

When the defense tries to challenge whether the accident produced the victim’s injuries, it’s common for them to bring in a medical expert to support their position.

Today, there is a higher standard for this expert testimony offered by the defense. The new law says that the same standards apply to defense experts that previously applied only to plaintiff experts. The defense expert must be able to testify that an alternative cause of injury is more likely than not, to a reasonable medical probability. A witness may offer expert testimony that something cannot be known to a reasonable degree of probability.,

The new rule is found in Cal. Evid. Code § 801.1. The legal change overrules Kline v. Zimmer Inc., 79 Cal.App.5th 123 (2022).

Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer

The role of an expert witness in a personal injury case in California can be critical. You can work with an experienced personal injury lawyer at LA Century Law. We prepare your case and a custom legal strategy, including experts. Call or message us now for your consultation.

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