Generally, an expert witness is a professional who has extensive experience and qualifications in a field directly relating to an issue in a case. Parties to a lawsuit bring in expert witnesses to answer questions and provide expert testimony about disputed facts. These questions can range from who was at fault in the accident to how much medical damages a person suffered in the accident.
How is expert testimony handled in court?
In order for an expert witness to testify, the person needs to meet the qualifications in the Iowa Rules of Evidence. The rule regarding expert testimony states:
"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 witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training or education may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise." (Iowa Rules of Evidence Rule 5.702)
It is up to the judge to determine whether a particular person meets these qualifications and whether that individual’s testimony can help settle a disputed fact at issue in the case. There may be a hearing before the expert testifies where the opposing sides argue about whether a person meets these qualifications.
After the expert testifies, the other side has the opportunity to cross-examine the expert and point out flaws or errors in the testimony and any potential bias.
How do expert witnesses help a car accident case?
Below are descriptions of how various experts can help settle two major aspects of a car accident lawsuit: fault and damages:
- Fault: Fault is obviously an important part of a car accident case given Iowa’s comparative negligence laws. An accident reconstructionist may be brought into a trial to testify regarding fault. These experts can determine how fast a driver was going, the driver's point of view, the forces during the impact and other aspects of the case. Plaintiffs may also call upon engineers or scientists to testify in product liability cases or about design errors in roadways.
- Damages: Economists might testify about the value of a plaintiff's lost wages and benefits or about the costs of the plaintiff's injuries. Plaintiffs may also ask their treating doctor to testify about their injuries and future treatments that might be required, and rehabilitation specialists sometimes offer testimony as well.
This list is not exhaustive, and plaintiffs can call upon other expert witnesses to give testimony if the expert's knowledge is relevant to the case. If a person injured in a car accident thinks he or she may need an expert opinion to prove a case, that person should consult a personal injury attorney in their area.
Local lawyers will be familiar with the law surrounding expert testimony and can ensure that a qualified professional testifies in court. If you’re in the Des Moines area and need to discuss your case and whether you require expert witnesses to establish your case, call Walker, Billingsley & Bair. Contact our office at (888) 435-9886 or fill out our contact form to set up your appointment.