Expert Witnesses in DC Car Accident Cases

An expert witness in a DC car accident case is an individual who is encouraged to express an opinion at a trial. All non-expert witnesses at a trial can only testify as to their personal knowledge, meaning what they saw, heard, or understand after seeing it with their own two eyes.

Layperson witnesses are only allowed to present the facts. It is expert witnesses who then could take those facts or some other factor and then opine within a reasonable degree of probability within their area of expertise as to an opinion based upon this information. Expert witnesses can be essential in DC car accident cases, and it is important to work with a skilled car accident attorney who has the available resources of witnesses on hand.

Becoming an Expert Witness

People become expert witnesses in a number of different ways. Some people become an expert witness simply because of their knowledge or training through formal education. Other people become expert witnesses simply based upon real life experience or work life experience.

There is no one hard or fast rule to become an expert witness but anyone who is going to be offered as an expert witness at trial in a DC car accident case must explain to the court their qualifications to be viewed as an expert witness and they must ask the court’s permission to be allowed to be considered an expert witness. A person just does not come in and testify as they see fit, and it is an issue that must receive court approval.

Types of Witnesses

DC car accident attorneys often use expert medical witnesses. These are witnesses that come to trial and explain to the jury the nature and extent of the injuries sustained by the injured person.

An injured person can explain to a jury how they are feeling but an injured person cannot opine as to the fair, reasonable, and customary costs of services or provide an opinion as to the necessity of future treatment or things like that. All those issues would need to be established through expert testimony.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Expert Witnesses

In many instances, expert witnesses are required by the court rules to testify at a trial. A close evaluation is done by an attorney as to whether an expert witness is necessary in each individual case. Expert witnesses can be costly, and it is sometimes difficult to arrange or coordinate the trial testimony. Consequently, expert witnesses are used only when required by the court’s rules.

There is usually no choice about whether the party is required to use an expert witness. A person must comply with the court rule and call an expert witness only when necessary. There is little discretion when it comes to the use of expert witnesses. Because of the significant cost, a close evaluation must be done. Expert witnesses are usually not called to testify in a discretionary manner. They are called to testify only when required by the court’s rules.

Opinion of a Witness

An expert witness is the only type of witness that is allowed to express an opinion to a jury. Their opinion must be limited to an area of expertise, an area in which they are qualified to give an opinion within a reasonable degree of probability. All other witnesses are fact witnesses and can only testify to their personal knowledge; what they saw, heard, or something else in their presence.

The jury can give an expert witness as much or as little weight as deemed appropriate. An expert witness is not afforded any additional weight than other witnesses at trial. It is a matter of expressing an opinion. If a person has an injury and believes they need surgery in the future, they cannot testify to that opinion. The person can testify about whether they had surgery in the past.

However, if a person requires surgery in the future, a medical expert is required to testify within a reasonable degree of medical probability that the person needs surgery in the future. The jury does not have to accept the fact that the patient needs surgery in the future. It is up to the jury to decide one way or another whether they believe that testimony.

Existing Relationship

The expert witness in a DC car accident case typically has some prior contact with the witness with the persons for whom they are offering their opinion. This can be done as an expert witness as a treating medical physician or some other contact with the party through examination or something like that.

If the attorney and the expert witness have a longstanding relationship with the attorney, then the other side can draw out that prior contact and allege that the two are biased or are colluding similar to obtain the result that they want. It is allowed but it is a fact that should be evaluated in each case moving forward.

Use in Trial

DC car accident attorneys do not always need to use expert witnesses during a trial, because it can be very costly and that cost is without any recovery obtained. Expert witnesses are used simply because they are required by the court’s rule.

The jury is instructed by the court that it is to afford expert witnesses the same weight as it would any other witness, but because it is offered by an expert does not mean that it has to be accepted as true. The court will allow an expert to testify but it is up to the jury to afford whatever weight it deems appropriate for that testimony.