Expert Witness

In personal injury cases, Florida courts generally divide witnesses into two types: lay witnesses and expert witnesses. These two types of witnesses serve very different functions, regardless of whether the injury victim files a lawsuit or seeks to settle their claim out of court. 

Differences in Testimony

A law witness can testify about their personal experiences (for example, “I saw the defendant shoot the plaintiff). An expert witness, by contract, can testify about matters within their field of expertise, even concerning incidents that are not within their personal experience. 

For example, an expert witness in ballistics could explain the trajectory of a bullet based on forensic evidence, helping the court understand how a shooting might have taken place from a specific distance and angle. This can be true even if the expert was not present at the shooting.

Types of Expert Witnesses

Below are a few examples of the different types of expert witnesses:

  • Medical experts: Doctors and other healthcare professionals who provide opinions on medical issues
  • Forensic experts: Specialists in DNA analysis, ballistics, fingerprint analysis, and more
  • Mental health experts: Psychologists and psychiatrists
  • Accident reconstruction experts: Professionals who analyze the causes of accidents
  • Real estate experts who know property values, real estate transactions, and more
  • Economic and financial experts
  • Vocational experts
  • Engineering experts
  • Environmental experts: Professionals who assess environmental impact, contamination, and compliance with environmental regulations
  • Information technology experts: IT specialists and cybersecurity experts.

A full list of the different types of experts who sometimes testify in court would be too long to mention here.

The Professionalization of the Expert Witness Industry

If you need a medical expert, you might ask your family doctor. That approach might not work, however. Since testifying against another doctor would not help your doctor’s reputation in their profession (and that’s putting it mildly), they would probably refuse. Even if they agreed to testify, they might wilt under the pressure of intense cross-examination.

Instead, you should probably choose a professional expert witness. An example of a professional expert witness is a former doctor who earns 100% of their income researching and testifying on cases, not treating patients. 

Such people are not so worried about their professional reputation since “expert witness” is its own profession. They will not wilt under cross-examination because they have been cross-examined many times before.

The Reaction of a Jury to an Expert Witness

Of course, you will have to pay your expert witness to research and testify in your case. And, of course, the opposing party’s lawyer will ensure the jury knows that your witness is receiving money for their testimony (unless they are calling their own expert witnesses). 

Nevertheless, using expert witnesses is routine, especially in medical malpractice and product liability cases. Your witness is unlikely to lose credibility in the jury’s eyes just because you’re paying them.

Testifying Witnesses vs. Consulting Witnesses

You can use an expert in two ways: as a testifying witness and as a consulting witness. If you’re using them as a testifying witness, you must inform the opposing party. The opposing party will have the right to cross-examine your witness in court and at a deposition.

You might, by contrast, use your expert witness as a consulting witness. A consulting witness does not testify. Instead, they help your lawyer understand your case better. A consulting witness can help with case strategy, and they can help prepare other expert witnesses to testify. You don’t even have to notify the opposing party of using a consulting witness.

Qualifying Expert Witnesses

Ultimately, it’s up to the judge to decide whether your expert witness is qualified in their field of expertise. This will depend on various factors, such as:

  • Academic qualification;
  • Professional experience;
  • Publications in professional journals; and
  • Reputation among professional peers

Your witness might not need an advanced degree, depending on the subject matter. If the judge rejects your expert as unqualified, you might be able to appeal an adverse judgment on this basis.

Expert Witnesses in Settlement Negotiations

Your personal injury claim might never mature into an actual lawsuit. Even so, the testimony of an expert witness is valuable evidence that you can use in negotiations.

The main advantage (in this context) of having an expert witness is that they can help convince the opposing party that they will lose if they go to trial. This can encourage them to settle the claim on your terms.

An Experienced Stuart Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help You Find an Expert Witness

Just about any experienced Stuart personal injury lawyer will have formed professional relationships with expert witnesses from different fields of inquiry. Some expert witnesses are better than others; your lawyer can help you choose the best one. This will likely be somebody with a long working relationship with your lawyer.

Contact or call Kibbey Wagner Injury & Car Accident Lawyers Stuart at (772) 444-7000 if you need legal assistance.