Sometimes the process of recovering a fair settlement after a personal injury is relatively straightforward. If all parties agree on the pertinent facts, the injuries aren’t that serious, and there’s strong evidence to prove liability, causation, and damages, the opposing party might pay a settlement without much contention. But when the damages are significant or there’s a dispute regarding fault or causation, it is often necessary to bring in various witnesses to provide deposition and testimony.
Read on to learn about the types of witnesses who might play a role in personal injury cases:
What Is a Percipient Witness?
A percipient witness, or “eyewitness,” is someone who testifies about what they perceived through their senses (e.g. seeing, touching, hearing, smelling). Such testimony is often crucial for proving liability.
Common examples of percipient witnesses who might play a role in personal injury cases include:
- Shopkeepers, pedestrians, and drivers who witnessed a car accident;
- Customers or staff on a commercial property who witnessed a slip and fall;
- Bystanders who witnessed a dog bite; and
- People who witnessed a person suffer an injury while using a defective product.
What Kinds of Expert Witnesses Might Play a Role in Personal Injury Cases?
Expert witnesses are people who have specialized knowledge about some aspect of the case such as the plaintiff’s medical condition, the value of the plaintiff’s damages, or the cause of the plaintiff’s injury. The defense might retain experts in similar fields to counter the plaintiff’s experts.
It is especially common for medical experts to provide testimony in personal injury cases. Such testimony might contribute to the strength of your case if there is a dispute regarding:
The Types of Medical Care Needed: If you will require ongoing medical care, it may be necessary to bring in a life care planner and/or various medical specialists to testify regarding the kinds of care that you will need.
The Cost of Future Medical Bills: Even if the defense agrees with the kinds of medical care you will require, a dispute might still arise regarding the cost of such care. Here again, the testimony of a life care planner and/or various medical specialists might help your personal injury attorney prove the cost of medical bills you are reasonably certain to incur in the future.
A Failure to Mitigate Damages: The defense may try to assert that you have failed to mitigate your damages by waiting too long to seek medical care or by participating in activities that had the potential to aggravate your injury or to prolong your recovery. Such a dispute could lead to a reduction in your financial award. A medical expert may provide testimony to prove that you did not fail to mitigate your damages. For example, if the defense argues that you waited too long to visit a doctor, a medical expert might testify that the symptoms of your particular injury are latent or subtle, so a reasonable person would have acted the same as you did given the circumstances. If the defense contends that your negligent behavior has aggravated your injury or prolonged your recovery, a medical expert might testify to the contrary.
Medical expert witnesses can be either retained or non-retained. A retained medical expert witness does not have knowledge about the facts of the case independently of litigation. Such an expert is asked to provide testimony on their opinion or to discuss issues pertaining to the standards of care and causation. An example might be a doctor other than the plaintiff’s physician who provides testimony regarding the nature of the plaintiff’s injury. If a witness is deemed to be a retained expert witness, his or her name and address must be disclosed, along with a declaration that explains what he or she will testify about.
A non-retained medical expert witness, also called an “expert percipient witness,” is a healthcare professional who acquires knowledge of relevant facts about the case independently of litigation. For example, your attorney may use testimony from your treating physician about the types of injuries you have suffered, the severity of those injuries, your prognosis, and the treatments you have undergone.
It is not necessary to submit an expert witness declaration in order for a non-retained expert witness to testify. Unlike standard percipient witnesses (e.g. eyewitnesses), an expert percipient witness can testify regarding the opinions they formed from independently acquired facts and their skill, experience, and training.
Depending on the facts of your case, it may be necessary to bring in technical experts to provide testimony. Common examples of technical expert witnesses include:
Accident Reconstruction Experts: If there’s a dispute regarding what led to your injury or who was liable, your attorney may use the testimony of an accident reconstruction expert to prove what happened in the moments just before the accident.
Economists: Financial experts may provide testimony regarding the value of lost earning capacity and how inflation and other economic factors should influence your financial award.
Engineers: In some personal injury cases, the testimony of engineers is used to prove what led to the injury. For example, if you were hurt in a car accident that was caused by a defective auto part, an engineer may testify regarding how the part should have functioned and whether the defect was the proximate cause of your injury.
Vocational Rehabilitation Experts: These experts might provide testimony about how the injury has affected your future work prospects and your income-earning capacity.
Can My Friends and Family Provide Testimony?
Yes. It is common for attorneys to use the testimony of friends and family to prove the extent of a plaintiff’s non-economic damages. These are the intangible consequences of an injury such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment in life, and emotional distress.
Discuss Your Case with a Personal Injury Lawyer in Long Beach
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
Attorney Michael D. Waks works closely with a network of well-credentialed experts who may provide testimony to strengthen your case. With more than 30 years of experience in legal practice, Michael Waks knows how to get the most value out of the deposition and testimony provided by percipient and expert witnesses. To discuss your claim in a free consultation, send us a message or call (562) 206-1939.
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