Is Your Expert Witness Really an Expert?
In any lawsuit, when technical or specialized testimony is needed, your attorney will retain an expert witness to testify as to the technical or scientific facts that the jury has to hear to understand your case.
In many simpler injury cases, the only expert for the victim is the victim’s own treating doctor, but in other cases, building code experts, physicists, chemists, security, business operations, or vocational experts may be needed—there is almost no end to the types of experts that may be needed for a personal injury case.
But will your expert actually be able to testify in court? You may be surprised to know that not all experts are even allowed to give testimony in court to help your case.
Who Can Testify as an Expert?
To be an expert that can testify in your case, your expert has to actually be qualified as an expert in the first place. This decision is made by the judge, who will look at the expert’s background, and make a decision as to whether the expert has the requisite background and experience to testify.
It’s important to note that what makes an expert an expert, isn’t necessarily schooling or education. It may also be experience.
For example, a construction worker may have no higher education, no degrees, hasn’t written any books or conducted any complex academic studies. But if that construction worker has worked on or supervised thousands of projects and has worked for hundreds of companies, he or she still may be ,pre than qualified to testify as an expert in his or her field.
The Judge’s Decision
In some cases, deciding if your expert can legally testify is an easy decision for the judge—for example, your doctor, being a licensed physician, almost always will have the legal ability to come to court and testify about your health, treatment, or recovery.
But sometimes, whether someone is an expert isn’t so clear, and it may be challenged by the other side.
Experts are often challenged for one of two reasons:
- The expert simply does not have enough knowledge or experience to be considered an authority on the topic that he or she will testify to, or
- The expert is an expert—but not in the field that he or she will (or is anticipated to) testify to. For example, the world’s greatest orthopedist wouldn’t be legally qualified to give testimony as to your traumatic brain injury.
Dealing with Subspecialities
Experts can be challenged because there are so many subspecialties to many fields.
For example, a psychologist may be qualified to testify as to psychological disorders or injuries or treatment. But psychology can also include things like personality disorders, or addiction, or trauma, all which may be subspecialties of psychology.
The other side, seeking to disqualify your psychology expert, may question your winless to see how much experience he or she has in the subspecialty that is relevant to the proposed testimony.
Call the Knoxville personal injury attorneys at Fox Farley Willis & Burnette, PLLC, to make sure your injury case is handled the way it should be handled.