Many personal injury cases are won or lost based on the testimony of expert witnesses. These experts testify about facts that require specialized knowledge to help a judge or jury understand the evidence.
Expert Witnesses in Georgia
Ga. Code § 24-7-702 provides that a party may provide expert testimony “if scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue.”
A court will only allow an expert’s testimony if:
- Sufficient facts or data support the testimony.
- Reliable principles and methods form the basis of the testimony.
- These principles and methods have been reliably applied to the facts by the expert.
A party must show the court that their expert is qualified before the court will allow the expert to testify. They do this by asking the expert a series of questions in court to establish their credentials. This process is called voir dire.
Some questions a personal injury lawyer might ask an expert during voir dire include:
- Place of work, job duties, and title
- Education, training, experience, and degrees held
- Memberships in professional organizations
- Licenses or certifications
- Scientific or technical studies performed and papers published
- Information about the science or technical methods and principles relied upon for the upcoming testimony
In personal injury cases, a party typically uses expert witnesses to provide evidence to establish the extent of their physical injuries, pain and suffering, and cost of future medical expenses. They are also used to assist the trier of fact in determining lost wages and future lost earning capacity.
Kinds of Expert Witnesses
There are hundreds of fields of expertise. Some types of experts are used in personal injury cases more frequently than others.
Cell Phone Records
Often, defendants cause a motor vehicle or pedestrian accident because they are texting or talking on the phone while driving. However, proving they were distracted by their phone can be challenging. An expert in cellphone records can help establish this proof by accessing phone records and testifying what the records showed.
Vehicle accidents are one of the most common causes of personal injury. A collision or accident reconstruction expert is knowledgeable in speed, acceleration, and stopping distances – all factors that can be crucial in determining liability.
Electronic Control Modules
Electronic control modules (ECMs) are embedded systems used to control electrical systems inside semi-trucks and other vehicles. An embedded system is a computer system that consists of mechanical and hardware components that perform one or a few dedicated functions. ECMs collect data about speed, braking, and RPMs – all of which can be useful in a personal injury claim.
Life Care Planning
This expert prepares a life care plan, which is a detailed report of a person’s financial needs and expenses after an injury accident. A life care planner takes into account medical costs, nursing care, and daily living costs. Their report outlines a person’s needs in terms of their injuries and expected life expectancy. A life care plan can be used as a way to establish future medical expenses for accident victims.
Neurologists specialize in diagnosing, treating, and managing disorders of the nervous system, such as Alzheimer’s disease, concussions, epilepsy, migraines, and multiple sclerosis. Neurologists have the training to diagnose injuries and diseases through physical exams, power tests, strength and coordination exercises, reflex testing, and gait tests. Despite the increasing dependence on technology in medicine, the neurological examination will continue to play an important role in establishing an injured party’s medical injuries and future medical care.
Sometimes personal injury claims deal with exposure to cancer-causing chemicals or materials.
Oncology is the study of cancer. The three main fields of oncology are radiotherapy, surgery, and medicine. Cancer is diagnosed using biopsy, endoscopy, X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, PET scans, ultrasounds, and other radiological methods. Nuclear medicine and blood tests, as well as tumor markers, are also used to diagnose the condition.
Upon the diagnosis of cancer, oncologists determine the type of tumor and stage for the patient. Cancer staging determines the type of treatment the patient receives. The oncologist testifies about all these findings to help establish the extent of cancer-related medical issues and future medical needs.
Broken bones are common in vehicle collisions and slip-and-fall accidents. An orthopedic surgeon treats injuries to the bones with surgery, casting, and bracing. An orthopedist can testify about the kinds of injuries a person suffered in an accident and how extensive treatment and recovery will be.
Many accidents result in a person enduring long-term pain. A pain management specialist is a doctor who treats both acute pain, such as headaches, and chronic, long-term pain, such as back pain. These doctors use a combination of medication and procedures to stop pain at its source. Pain management specialists can testify about an injury victim’s injuries and their pain and suffering.
In severe accidents, plaintiffs may lose an arm or leg or lose function in their body. The rehabilitation specialist can explain the timeframe for restoring functionality, any prosthetics that might be required, and future rehabilitation costs.
A drug-related accident can occur for a number of reasons, including drug reactions, toxicology, poisoning, and overdoses. Whether legal or illegal, drugs contribute to an unnecessarily high number of vehicle accidents and other injuries.
A toxicologist can testify about these and other long-term impacts of drug use, such as mesothelioma and lymphoma.
Expert witnesses that know about job availability in the current job market are vital to establishing an injured party’s ability to make a living. The vocational expert uses this information to prepare a vocational assessment and testify about the injured party’s diminished earning capacity.
Choosing the Perfect Expert Witness
Experienced personal injury lawyers know the law and the right expert witnesses that will strengthen your claim. Contact an Atlanta personal injury lawyer to discuss your case and whether expert testimony might be needed.