The Role of Expert Witnesses in a Motorcycle Accident Case

The Role of Expert Witnesses in a Motorcycle Accident Case

The Role of Expert Witnesses in a Motorcycle Accident Case

The role of expert witnesses in your motorcycle accident claim is extremely important. The cause of your crash and where the blame should rest may be crystal clear in your mind, but to a judge or jury who must attempt to determine what happened based on testimony and evidence, the answers may not be so obvious.

An expert witness provides testimony about any contested, technical aspects of your claim. Retaining the right expert witnesses in your motorcycle accident case can help clear up any confusion or questions a fact finder may have about your claims.

Failing to use an expert when needed, or using the wrong sort of expert for the needs of your case, can lead to additional challenges in obtaining compensation.

Understanding who qualifies as an expert witness and the various types of expert witnesses you can employ can help you and your attorney have a more robust and informed discussion about whether and how to use this valuable human resource.

Qualifications to Be an Expert Witness

Have you ever wondered, “What is an expert witness?” An expert witness is simply someone determined by the court to possess specialized knowledge, training, education, or skill beyond that which an ordinary person would have. The court has the discretion to decide whether a particular witness qualifies as an expert.

If you are looking into how to become an expert witness, you might be surprised to learn how straightforward the process actually is.

Experts do not need to have a certain level of education or amount of training to qualify as experts. However, the following circumstances can make it more likely for a court to find someone qualified to be an expert witness:

  • An advanced degree beyond a bachelor’s degree
  • Significant time spent in the relevant industry or field of study
  • Teaching or instructing experience
  • Publications in trade journals, scientific papers, or peer-reviewed articles
  • Attendance at high-quality or nationally recognized trainings and seminars

If a person is permitted to testify as an expert, California law also permits the opposing party to cross-examine that person about their qualifications and background. Doing so can help show the fact finder that the expert’s background is lacking in one or more respects.

The Role of Expert Witnesses in Your Case

Experts can play a role during the investigative portion of your claim as well as if your case goes to trial.

During the investigative stage, you and your accident lawyer gather and evaluate evidence that could be used to support your claim for damages. An expert can help define technical evidence and explain its significance. An expert may also help you identify and access additional evidence that can further support your case.

Experts who testify at trial are different from lay witnesses. A lay witness testifies to things they experienced through one or more of their five senses. Lay witnesses may not give their opinions except when that opinion does not require technical skills or knowledge. For example, a lay witness might offer an opinion that a car was traveling fast before it struck you.

What is the role of an expert witness in a trial, and how does it differ from their investigative role?

At trial, expert witnesses do not testify as lay witnesses or to facts surrounding the accident, as they likely did not see the crash occur. Instead, they apply their knowledge or skills to facts presented by the parties and then render opinions about the significance or meaning of those facts.

In so doing, experts are attempting to help the judge and jury understand the relevance and importance that certain facts have to your case.

5 Types of Expert Witnesses in Your Motorcycle Crash

The role of expert witnesses in your case will depend on your needs. You and your lawyer may decide that your case does not need any expert witnesses at all, while other claims may need two or more to be viable. There are four main types of expert witnesses in motorcycle cases:

1. Medical Expert Witness

The injuries you sustain in your motorcycle wreck can be difficult for some juries to fully appreciate, especially when it comes to the limitations and mental trauma such injuries cause.

An expert medical witness can help fill in this gap in the fact finder’s knowledge. Your expert can explain, for example, how it came to be that your hip was broken or your fingers amputated based on the facts of the crash that were provided to them.

If you have any sort of medical condition that may have played a role in your crash, an expert witness can help explain what effect, if any, this condition had on the accident and how it unfolded. Such testimony may help defeat the other party’s claims of contributory negligence designed to minimize the size of your financial recovery.

Finally, a medical expert can connect any unusual or atypical injuries you sustained to the motorcycle accident.

For instance, some injuries are so common that people are surprised when they don’t occur in a crash — these include head trauma, neck and back injuries, and broken bones. However, if you are harmed in a manner other than this, such as suffering post-traumatic stress disorder, your expert witness can help show how the crash led to this harm.

2. Mechanical Expert Witness

An expert witness with a background in engineering, auto or motorcycle repairs, or similar fields can be helpful if your case involves allegations of mechanical defects. Your expert may have the chance to inspect the vehicles involved after the crash and determine whether some defective part or system contributed to the crash.

In the absence of an opportunity to examine your motorcycle and the other vehicle, a mechanical expert might be able to render opinions based on other evidence at the scene of the crime. This might include skid marks or other marks left on the roadway as well as post-collision travel indicators of the vehicles involved, such as trails of debris.

3. Accident Reconstruction Expert

In some motorcycle crashes, there are only two people who know how the crash occurred: you and the other driver involved. Unfortunately, it is not unheard of for you and the other party to have wildly different recollections about what transpired in the moments leading up to the crash.

You may remember proceeding through an intersection after your traffic light turned green, while the other driver may claim that they were the one with the right-of-way.

Where objective evidence is inconclusive and witness testimony is lacking or not persuasive, an accident reconstructionist may be needed. A reconstructionist reviews as much evidence as they possibly can, including:

  • Police reports and witness statements
  • Diagrams and measurements of vehicles, debris, and skid marks taken at the scene of the crash
  • Photographs of the vehicles and the accident scene
  • Available data from any involved vehicles captured just before the crash
  • Any other relevant information about the crash that can be found

Once the accident reconstructionist has compiled as much information as possible, they set out to combine such information into a cohesive narrative that shows a judge or jury just how an accident unfolded moment by moment.

Using diagrams and computer simulations, the reconstructionist can show from a variety of angles what likely happened that led to the crash.

4. Forensics Experts

If there is reason to believe either you or the other driver might have been impaired by some substance, a forensics expert might be helpful. A forensics expert can interpret the results of blood, urine, or breath tests that were taken from you or the other driver and render opinions as to:

  • How long prior to the crash you might have consumed the intoxicating substance
  • What effects, if any, the substances discovered in the samples had on you or the other driver
  • If multiple substances were detected, how each of those substances might have interacted with the others
  • What actions, decisions, or behaviors observed before and after the crash may have been influenced by substances discovered through breath, urine, or blood tests

Forensic expert witnesses are able to distinguish between substances that are intoxicating and likely to impair and those that are benign and have only mild side effects. This testimony can make it easier for a fact finder to determine who may have been careless in consuming certain substances and then operating a vehicle.

5. Engineering Experts

The role of expert witnesses with engineering backgrounds is to look at the road where the crash occurred and notice any signs of negligent road design or construction.

Examples of errors and mistakes an engineering expert would be looking for might include roads that are not properly graded or leveled, intersections with poor visibility, and insufficient traffic control signs and signals.

Roadway design defects can indicate that a municipality or agency is liable for your motorcycle wreck in addition to the careless driver. Where there are no such defects in the road where your accident took place, this fact can make any negligent actions of a driver even more inexcusable.

Effective Use of Expert Witnesses at Trial

It should always be remembered that the role of expert witnesses at trial is to help educate and explain facts to the jury. Fact finders in motorcycle accident cases are free to reject anything an expert says that they do not find credible, so it is crucial that you and your motorcycle accident attorney choose only experts whom the jury will trust.

You and your motorcycle accident lawyer will want to look for experts who have as many of the following characteristics as possible. A credible expert will:

  • Have considerable education or training from well-regarded institutions
  • Not charge exorbitant fees to render an opinion, as excessive fees can lead a jury to conclude the expert is nothing more than a “hired gun”
  • Have received recognition or accolades from reputable organizations
  • Have worked in their field of expertise for a significant amount of time
  • Be more than an academic, but also have real-world experience
  • Know the major publications and literature that both support their opinions and oppose their opinions

To be effective in their roles, your experts should also be able to communicate complicated and technical information in a way that is easy for the average person to understand. They should clearly define technical terms and give examples of the principles they discuss.

How Your Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Helps in Getting Witnesses to Testify in Your Case

You do not need to have an attorney to hire or use expert witnesses, but your attorney can be of immense help in using experts effectively. Your attorney can not only decide whether an expert is necessary in your case but also evaluate the qualifications of various experts and select one or more who will be most likely to help your case.

Contact the Law Offices of Steve Gimblin

If you or a loved one has been hurt in a Yuba City motorcycle wreck, call the Law Offices of Steven Gimblin. We will use every tool at our disposal to help you present a strong, winnable claim. This includes using credible and qualified expert witnesses when appropriate.

Contact us today to learn more about our services and how the Law Offices of Steve Gimblin can help you in your search for compensation.

No Comments

Post A Comment

Click To Call