An expert is anyone with specialized knowledge, whose opinion will be helpful to the jury or judge. At trial, only experts can give opinions.
There are two types of witnesses – expert and lay. A lay witness testifies about facts that he personally saw – “I saw the light and it was red”, “the truck ran the stop sign”, “the blue car was over the line when the collision occurred”. A lay witness can’t give an opinion.
An expert witness might be able to testify to some facts, but only an expert witness can give an opinion on a car accident.
And an expert doesn’t have to have a lot of degrees and certifications, although it helps.
Who was the perfect expert witness? Remember the scene in “My Cousin Vinnie” where Joe Pesci calls his girlfriend, Marisa Tomei to testify that the crime couldn’t have occurred the way the prosecution said it did? Where Marisa shuts down the trial, because she knows more about cars, tires, and limited slip differentials than anyone in the courtroom?
Marisa Tomei was the perfect expert witness – she hadn’t seen the crime or the scene, but she knew cars so well that she could tell the court why the other side’s witnesses had to be lying.
So what do you need an expert for in a personal injury lawsuit? You always need a doctor to give an opinion that the accident caused your injury, that the medical expenses were reasonable and necessary, and whether the injury is permanent. The insurance company may hire a doctor to say that your doctor is wrong.
You might also need an expert to establish that the defendant violated a standard of care. I have hired:
• An architect to testify that an “automatic” door that knocked over my 88- year old client was not properly designed for a dialysis clinic. I also hired an expert on automatic doors.
• A security expert to testify that a shopping center where my client was stabbed had inadequate security.
• An engineer to testify that a portable photographer’s platform – which my client, a plus sized model, had fallen from – was not safely designed.
• A retired state trooper to list all the ways that a trucking company had violated multiple rules, causing an accident.
More often, victims’ attorneys are hiring doctors to examine their clients, review their medical history, and testify that the accident caused the injury, that the injury is permanent, and that the cost of medical care was reasonable. Formerly, the treating doctor would testify to this; but in the last few years, insurance doctors have become so adept at testifying that sometimes, the treating doctor is not enough to persuade a jury.
In many severe injury and wrongful death cases, economic and vocational experts come into play, to testify about work life expectancy, wage loss, and the value of non-wage benefits.
In wrongful death cases, coroners are called as experts to testify about the cause of death.
I have been a lawyer over 30 years. You can count on there being an expert in every personal injury lawsuit that goes to trial. If you have a personal injury case in Cincinnati, Ohio or if you want to know what your lawsuit is worth, talk with an experienced Cincinnati Injury
Attorney about the case. Call me, William Strubbe, at 513-621-4775.
Because all situations are different, and because there may be other facts pertaining to your case that I don’t know about, you should not rely on this answer for legal advice. I am not your attorney, and no lawyer client relationship has been formed. All discussions are limited to Ohio law unless otherwise indicated. And past performance cannot be used to predict future results.